The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, in association with Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT), presents the Chicago premiere of Margaret Garner, a new American opera based on one of the most significant and controversial fugitive slave stories in pre-Civil War America. The opera will be directed by Kenny Leon, whose recent Broadway credits include the Tony Award-winning A Raisin in the Sun; Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf. Margaret Garner features music by Grammy Award-winning composer Richard Danielpour and a libretto by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, a novelist noted for her poetically charged and richly expressive depictions of the African American experience. Internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, particularly well-known to operatic audiences throughout the world for her portrayals of the title roles in Carmen and Samson et Dalila, and for whom Margaret Garner was written, will bring her critically hailed performance to the stage of the Auditorium Theatre on November 1 and 2. Celebrated mezzo-soprano Tracie Luck, who sang Margaret Garner with the New York City Opera, will sing the title role at the Nov. 6, 8 and 9 Chicago performances. Tickets are now on sale.
The Chicago performances feature more than 150 artists, including soloists, two choruses and the Chicago Sinfonietta under the musical direction of Stefan Lano. The Chicago premiere of Margaret Garner marks the first time since 1941 that an opera of this scale has been presented on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre. The piece was originally commissioned by MOT, Cincinnati Opera and Opera Company of Philadelphia for its 2005 debut.
Margaret Garner is based on the true story of one of the most significant and controversial cases of all antebellum fugitive slave stories. Margaret Garner's love for her husband and children fueled her ongoing fight for survival as she endured unimaginable abuse and hardship. In 1856, Garner and her husband fled with their children to Ohio in an attempt to escape their lives as slaves at Kentucky's Maplewood Farm. Facing recapture, Garner made the chilling decision to attempt to kill herself and her two children, rather than see them return to the bonds of slavery. As her husband was dragged from their hiding place, Garner succeeded in killing her two-year-old daughter before being overpowered by a party of U.S. marshals. Margaret Garner's trial became the longest fugitive slave case of this era. An intense national debate - over whether Garner should be tried for "destruction of property" or murder - directly and blatantly addressed critical questions that fueled the Civil War.