Opera: Passion, Power and Politics
Sponsored by Societe Generale · In collaboration with Royal Opera House
Traverse through centuries of classical music as we unpack hundreds of years of dismissal, challenge and triumph within opera, with Dr Onyeka Nubia, writer, law lecturer and historian, and Dr Shirley J Thompson OBE, Reader in Composition and Performance at the University of Westminster.
BLACK CLASSICS: PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT THAT SHAPED CLASSICAL MUSIC
Rock and Roll and the melodies in Blues and Soul are international, as are Funk, Hip Hop, Rap, Grime, Reggae and Raga. They have been absorbed into the maelstrom of world consciousness but for people of African descent these forms of music are interwoven with joy, pain, aspirations and fears. Even entertainment is catharsis. But when we think of classical music however, we are sometimes offered a ‘sacred’ white male space, where the African drum, voice or composer does not fear to tread. Dr Onyeka Nubia unpicks this fallacy and reveals the African compositions and composers that throughout history helped to shape ‘western’ classical music.
THE WOMAN WHO REFUSED TO DANCE
Taken from the groundbreaking series HEROINES OF OPERA composed by Dr Shirley J Thompson, ‘The Woman Who Refused to Dance’ recalls the story in 1792 of an ‘unknown woman’ beaten for insubordination by Captain Kimber for refusing to dance on his boat heading for Grenada from Calabar in West Africa. She died three days later, but the incident was widely reported and William Wilberforce employed the case in Parliament, to argue for the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, an act that was eventually passed in 1807. The opera conveys the drama of the incident, and profoundly represents the transcendence of The (Unknown) Woman as she hangs on the boat.