A touching tale of a family broken by violence and how we can process grief, Blue is an emotional powerhouse of an opera that’s not to be missed. If you like a tearjerker with a heart, we think you’ll love the opera Blue.
From musical theatre influences to the background of the opera, read up on Blue in our introductory guide.
From Broadway to Opera House
Born 1961, Jeanine Tesori is a composer most known for her musical theatre compositions, including the Tony Award-winning Fun Home; Thoroughly Modern Millie; Caroline, or Change and Shrek the Musical. But she is by no means a stranger to the operatic medium, having worked in opera, tv and film.
In 2011, Tesori was commissioned by Glimmerglass Festival to write A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck, an opera which details the real life couple of Eugene O’Neill and his wife Carlotta Monterey, whose arguments lead them to be isolated outside in a blizzard – separated and hallucinating. Glimmerglass later commissioned Tesori again in 2015, leading to the composition of Blue. Hear more from Jeannine Tesori in her interview with Seattle Opera.
Taking musical styles from jazz, blues, hymns from the black church, cabaret and more, you can see Tesori’s musical theatre background throughout the score of Blue. Full of heart-breaking and tender moments, listen out for the poignant moment in Act II when the heartbroken Father receives news of his son and seeks comfort with The Reverend.
Get a taste of Blue’s music and listen to Seattle Opera’s tracks below.
Make a stand
A portrait of contemporary African American life: of love and loss, church, sisterhood, and most importantly, family. The opera follows the story of a black middle class Harlem-based family whose hopes and dreams for their teenage son are dashed when he is shot by a white police officer.
It begins as a young couple welcome a baby boy and plan ahead for his future, despite their friends concerns and jealousy. 16 years later the Son has become a non-violent political protester. Accusing his Father, a policeman, of upholding an oppressive system they begin to clash.
When The Son is shot by a white police officer at one of his protests, his parents grieve in their individual ways: the Mother with her friends, and the Father seeking a Reverend for input.
The opera culminates with the son’s funeral where they find their way back to each other through the community around them. A breathtaking and heartbreaking finale to an emotionally charged opera.
A stellar libretto by Tazewell Thompson
As mentioned previously, Tesori worked on Blue for the Glimmerglass Festival, and when Tazewell Thompson, who had previously directed several operas for the festival, was approached by Tesori to suggest a librettist, he suggested a collaboration with the composer himself.
Interestingly, under Thompson’s initial drafts, the Father was originally a saxophone player, but Tesori requested his role changed to that of the police officer, which puts the relationship between Father and Son more directly at odds.
This complex relationship between father and son is just one of the many reasons that Tesori’s and Thompson’s Blue is one of the most popular contemporary operas of our time – winning the award for ‘Best New Opera’ at the Music Critics Association of North America 2020.