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“Belonging in Opera” presented by the Opera Theater of Saint Louis and Washington University’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, & Equity

April 6, 2021 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

|Recurring Event (See all)

One event on April 13, 2021 at 6:30 pm


Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) is partnering with Washington University’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, & Equity (CRE2) to host a two-night symposium exploring the canon of Black composers and the current reality of the Black experience onstage and behind the scenes. “Belonging in Opera: Learning from Our Past, Engaging with Our Future” will be led by Dr. Naomi André, professor at the University of Michigan and author of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement. The symposium will take place online on April 6th and April 13th from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. CST, and will feature discussions and presentations from acclaimed scholars, artists, composers, and opera administrators. Across these two evenings, “Belonging in Opera” will explore the history of Black composers and the current and future landscape of Black creativity in opera and adjacent spaces.

“The classical music industry has long been grappling with the lack of equity in our field, from the under-programming of Black composers to the under-representation of Black leaders in our organizations. As we at Opera Theatre continue our learning journey, it is crucial for us to engage in a conversation about where we can go from here,” said Andrew Jorgensen, General Director. “We are so grateful that leading musicologist Dr. Naomi André has convened this tremendous group of thought leaders in our industry. We are honored to present this symposium with our colleagues at Washington University; I am particularly grateful to Adrienne Davis, Co-director of the CRE2, and Tila Neguse, Assistant Director at the CRE2, for their dedication and commitment to helping us all learn and grow.”

Joining Dr. André for this series will be composers Anthony Davis and Damien Sneed; artists Nicole Cabell (soprano), Briana Hunter (mezzo-soprano), Will Liverman (baritone), and Morris Robinson (bass); leaders Afton Battle (General Director, Fort Worth Opera), Quodesia “Quo” Johnson (Education and Company Culture Manager, The Dallas Opera), and Marcia Sells (Chief Diversity Officer, the Metropolitan Opera); and scholars Todd Decker (Washington University), Lauren Eldridge Stewart (Washington University), Maya Gibson (University of Missouri), Kori Hill (University of North Carolina), Marcía Porter (Florida State University), and Louise Toppin (University of Michigan).

“As we work to make opera a welcoming space for all, we realize that inclusivity requires people from all corners of the industry — composers, singers, administrators, andscholars — talking to one another, widening our repertoire, and sharing perspectives around Black representation and experiences in opera,” said Dr. André. “By engaging multiple voices from the composer’s desk, Board rooms, administrative offices, the stage, and the classroom, we are seeking ways to reinvent how we think about and perform opera.”

The symposium is free to all and will be livestreamed on Opera Theatre’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Pre-registration and additional information are available at

“Belonging in Opera: Learning from Our Past, Engaging with Our Future” is made possible with a leadership gift from Kim & Tim Eberlein.

About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis  Opera Theatre of Saint Louis produces a spring festival featuring casts of the opera world’s most exciting singers accompanied by members of the Grammy Award-winning St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Each season, OTSL presents four inventive new productions in English during the months of May and June. In addition to presenting innovative interpretations of classics, OTSL is also committed to premiering new and relevant operas by prominent composers; since its inaugural season in 1976, 28 operas have received their world premieres at Opera Theatre. The company’s competitive young artist programs foster the next generation of emerging American singers; these programs have been a springboard for countless artists to launch international careers. OTSL is led by General Director Andrew Jorgensen and Artistic Director James Robinson.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is funded in part by the Regional Arts Commission, Arts and Education Council, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Missouri Arts Council. Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges Webster University for its sustaining partnership.

About Washington University’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Equity

CRE2 brings the research force of Washington University to study how race and ethnicity are integral to the most complex and challenging issues of our time. A core part of our mission is the Arts & Culture initiative. We believe that through their creative practice, artists move people, change minds, and help us envision alternate worlds and possibilities. The power of their work and practice informs CRE2’s Arts & Culture, a project that creates spaces of exchange and imagination — “publics” — within communities both local and global. We design initiatives with partners and collaborators both on campus and off to multiply opportunities, promote deep exploration through creative practice, empower artists as thought leaders, and expand and amplify the conversations surrounding the work of artists, performers, and arts scholars and critics locally, nationally, and globally. Believe with us.

The CRE2 Arts & Culture proposes to help address these and other issues by serving as a key partner, hub, and incubator for race and/or ethnicity and the arts and culture in St. Louis.

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