Saturday, April 24, 2010


New opera? Isn't opera that musty old art form that tends toward an archaic version of drama? A spectacle appropriate for an era without online TV and 3D movies? When did the Wagnerian fat lady disappear and turn into a couple of ripped boxers dancing around the stage singing about racism? I'll tell you when: in Shadowboxer - an opera based on the life of Joe Lewis by Frank Proto and John Chenault. I saw it last night at the University of Maryland Opera Studio's world premiere. It was a wonderful production, complete with jazz octet, video images, and a recording of the original radio broadcast when Joe Lewis boxed Max Schmeling for the second time. Although at times the melodic line was weaker than the strength of the performers on stage, there were some hauntingly beautiful moments in the score. The orchestra was superb, the sopranos had soaring songs of both sympathy and seduction, and the chorus was a strong dramatic force throughout the two and a half hour production. I was very impressed by this version of modern opera. It is full of a deep realism and stark truths about the racism in our country, explained through the eyes of Joe Lewis, an American hero.

Tomorrow, Sunday, April 25th, at 3:00 is your last chance to see Shadowboxer in its premiere state. You can get tickets through the Clarice Smith Center for Performing Arts. For more information about contemporary opera, or Joe Lewis the boxer, or any ol' thing relating to opera or boxing visit the Music and Recreation division here at the library!

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