Eternal Love: The Opera – Chicago Reader
Composer and tenor Steve Wallace says the first time he heard Nas’ song “Undying Love,” the last track on the rapper’s 1999 album I . . ., “I immediately saw it as a single act with chamber orchestra, but I stowed it away for later.”
It wasn’t until 2014, when Wallace was rehearsing for the role of Turiddu in verismo Mascagni’s opera. Cavalleria RusticanaHe sat down and wrote the one chapter he was imagining.
Nas’s story “Eternal Love” is the rhymed and tightly wound tale of a man who returns from a weekend in Vegas with a surprise engagement ring to find that he intends in their bed with another man. He has a gun and soon they are all dead.
Cavalleria Rusticana, And Pagliacci, the operas with which she is often paired in performance, are both stories of love being betrayed, and ending in death. The plots of these domestic crimes of passion were part of a shift in the late nineteenth century in which Italian opera shifted from tales of gods and kings to dramas about ordinary people.
Verismo meant the realistic (if melodramatic) picture of life as the audience knows it.
This week, Oprah Wallace, also titled undying love, will premiere in a semi-theatrical solo show at the Kehrein Center for the Arts in the Austin neighborhood. It is a project of Hearing in Color, a Chicago non-profit organization founded and led by another classically trained singer, Larop K. Raphael, with a mission to deliver music that has historically been left out of the classical repertoire. WFMT is a production partner.
Friday 11/12, 7 p.m., Kehrin Center for the Arts, 5628 West Washington, hearincolor.org, $20.
Wallace grew up in the south and south suburbs of Chicago (his early training included Merit School of Music), but has since resided in New York, where he has had a prolific and multifaceted career. Initially mostly engaged in hip-hop and R&B, but unable to weed out the opera bug (“I was throwing myself singing Rodolfo in the shower”), he returned to Chicago long enough to pick up the voice of Master in DePaul University Music School, where in 2011 he met Rafael, who at the time was a university student.
Rafael, former Lyric Opera Arts Director, is now a host on WFMT. He launched Hearing in Color in 2017, after realizing that “there is a lot of music I didn’t learn in school.”
“In order to get acquainted with Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, I missed the opportunity to study extensively the work of William Grant Still, Margaret Bonds, or Florence Price,” says Raphael. While researching alone, “I was finding all this music. My question was, why isn’t anyone doing this?”
The hearing in color began as volunteer poses in the café by friends recruited by Raphael. “It started with black art songs, then came Latin art songs, and then there were condimans, which are Filipino art songs,” he says. “All this music that’s often overlooked, because white European males are the norm in classical music.”
And although there have been calls recently for a “more inclusive” story to be told on the opera stage, Raphael says, they have usually been answered with “expanded stories told through the lens of whiteness.”
“To see this kind of story told, inspired by something deeply rooted in black culture like hip-hop, but told through an opera setting and performed by black singers, by a black orchestra, and produced by a team led by the Black Company, is something we don’t experience very often. What can we do to address inequality in opera? I think that’s what we can do.”
Cavalleria Rusticana Ends with a duel Pagliacci With the knife. Wallace, who wrote his own script (without incorporating any of Nas’s lines), and moved the place to Queens in the 1960s says, undying love The opera is about the “human experience”.
The nuance of Nas’ story, Raphael says, is that these are the choices the protagonist is presented with. “The real bad guys are the societal pressures that make an individual believe he has no other choice but to go to extremes.”
The opera has a four-person cast, including soprano Whitney Morrison as girlfriend and baritone Brian Major as hero. Chicago Chamber Band D-author You will play a score that Wallace describes as romantic and multifaceted.
Since the lack of recordings is a barrier to accessing music, most Hearing in Color shows are recorded and made available to the public at the institution. website. The love that never dies Exception: The performance will be recorded for possible future broadcasts on WFMT and, eventually, a hearing in a color video stream.