“The cast’s performances are both moving and cogent in their refusal to accept the toxicity thrust upon them”
“Blue was premiered in Washington DC in 2019 – a year before George Floyd’s murder spotlit the ongoing scourge of police brutality towards young Black men across America. The timing lends an appalling prescience to the story of this opera, and its outrage that Black communities ‘have been here before’.
Washington National Opera presents Blue, a contemporary opera on racial injustice in the US today, with a libretto by Tazewell Thompson set to music by Jeanine Tesori. Blue tells the tragic story of an African-American police officer whose son is killed by a fellow officer during a protest. Strongly resonating with the Black Lives Matter movement, the piece is equally groundbreaking thanks to its intimate and layered portrayal of African-American family life on the operatic stage.
A young Black couple against the odds raise a teenage Son until their worst nightmare is realised at his fatal shooting by a police officer. The twist is that the Father is himself a cop, running the daily gauntlet of life as a Black man who dares to don the ‘blue’. Shaped as a series of dialogues, Tazewell Thompson’s libretto is eviscerating in its fury and grief, and the agonising conflicts experienced by people torn apart by racist violence. Yet it’s equally, painfully full of tenderness, love and humour. The contrasts are beautifully matched in Jeanine Tesori’s score, which moves from lush warmth to splintered dissonance in a heartbeat, straddling art and vernacular styles with subtlety and verve.
The cast’s performances are both moving and cogent in their refusal to accept the toxicity thrust upon them. Kenneth Kellogg, Briana Hunter and Aaron Crouch are eloquent as Father, Mother and Son, a trinity supported by three Girlfriends and three Policemen who morph into a church congregation led by Gordon Hawkins’s dignified Reverend. Conductor Roderick Cox brings luminosity to a finely honed Washington National Opera Orchestra.”– Steph Power