Toledo Opera will present the Tony Award®–winning composer Jeanine Tesori and NAACP Theatre Award–winning librettist Tazewell Thompson’s new opera Blue on Friday, August 26 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, August 28 at 2 p.m. at the Valentine Theatre, 400 North Superior, Toledo, Ohio. Influenced by gospel music and using vivid flashbacks, Blue places timely issues at the forefront of modern opera and invites audiences to the emotional epicenter of their impact. Toledo Opera will also host a free Pre-Opera Talk one hour before each show in the Grand Lobby of the Valentine Theatre. Local scholars provide historical context and insight and are available to take questions after the talk.
First performed in 2019 at the Glimmerglass Festival, and the recipient of the Music Critics Association of North America’s 2020 Award for Best New Opera, the plot of Blue centers on an African American couple in Harlem as they anticipate the birth of their firstborn, a son, with both hope and fear. As the baby grows into a young man, the mother worries for his future, and the father tries to prepare his son for the realities of 21st century America, while wrestling with his own identity as a police officer, a “Black man in blue.” When their deepest fears come true, the family is forced to navigate a devastating reality seeking answers and support from their church and community. Chelsea Tipton, II returns to Toledo to conduct the opera and librettist Tazewell Thompson serves as the stage director.
Kenneth Kellogg, who originated the role of The Father at the Glimmerglass Festival, will once again sing The Father with Toledo Opera. He has also performed the role in numerous opera houses such as Detroit Opera, Seattle Opera, and at Pittsburgh Opera as well as on the recording made by Washington National Opera; he soon travels to Amsterdam in The Netherlands for the European premiere of Blue.
Aundi Marie Moore, who will sing the role of The Mother, has established herself as an exceptional talent with her appearance as Strawberry Woman in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Porgy and Bess last season. Notable performances include the Washington National Opera, L’Opéra de Monte Carlo, Sarasota Opera, Atlanta Opera, and Virginia Opera.
The role of The Son will be played by Darius Gillard, who is steadily gaining momentum on regional operatic circuits. He has been praised for his warm legato and thoughtful interpretation, excelling in the lyric repertoire. Mr. Gillard has appeared in principal, supporting, and comprimario roles with companies that include Detroit Opera, Opera Carolina, Connecticut Lyric Opera, Arbor Opera Theatre, Capitol Opera Raleigh, and Hartford Opera Theatre.
Dramatic baritone Gordon Hawkins will sing the role of The Reverand – which he originated at the Glimmerglass Festival. Hawkins has garnered an international reputation as a “Rigoletto specialist,” delighting audiences as the tragic Verdi underdog in more than 200 performances, most recently with the Deutsche Opera am Rhein, Vancouver Opera, Washington National Opera, Arizona Opera, and Opera Colorado.
Kayla Hill Oderah (Girlfriend 2/Congregant 2), Kaswanna Kanyinda (Girlfriend 3/Congregant 3), Tyrese Byrd (Policeman 1/ Congregant 1), Ernest Jackson (Policeman 2/ Congregant 2), and Clayton Matthews (Policeman 3/Congregant 3) bring national and international musical prowess of their own, with past performances at Detroit Opera, Amalfi Coast Music Festival, Berlin Opera Academy, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Seattle Opera among many others.
For Toledo Opera’s Executive Director Suzanne Rorick, Blue is a project years in the making. It is the latest installment of new productions chosen specifically for the Toledo community in order to highlight opera’s relevance to today’s audiences.
“We are so pleased to finally present Blue to the Toledo community after. This project was begun in 2019 but was delayed by the pandemic in January of 2022. The themes of this story remain in the news and the hearts of the Toledo community,” said Rorick. “Our hope is to continue the conversation that this opera was meant to raise. We invite you to join us in late summer for this important, stunning, and award-winning opera.”
Toledo Opera will perform Blue at the Valentine Theatre on Friday, August 26 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, August 28 at 2 p.m. To learn more about Blue cast and production team and to buy tickets, visit: toledoopera.org. Blue is made possible by The National Endowment for the Arts, Owens Corning, and Ohio Humanities. For media access, please contact Rachael Cammarn at firstname.lastname@example.org.