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Terence Blanchard to Make History at The Metropolitan Opera

Photo Source: @terence_blanchard on Instagram

( Opening Night of the 2021–22 season will be a historic occasion—the Met’s first performance of an opera by a Black composer. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Grammy Award–winning jazz musician and composer Terence Blanchard’s adaptation of Charles M. Blow’s moving memoir, which The New York Times praised after its 2019 world premiere at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as “bold and affecting” and “subtly powerful.” Featuring a libretto by filmmaker Kasi Lemmons, the opera tells a poignant and profound story about a young man’s journey to overcome a life of trauma and hardship. James Robinson and Camille A. Brown—two of the creators of the Met’s sensational recent production of Porgy and Bess—co-direct this new staging. Baritone Will Liverman, one of opera’s most exciting young artists, stars as Charles, alongside sopranos Angel Blue as Destiny/Loneliness/Greta and Latonia Moore as Billie. See the original post here.

(By Matt Silver for Versatility is one thing; possessing the aptitude to match a boundless musical curiosity is another. Leonard Bernstein had both; Terence Blanchard also has both.

Bernstein’s jazz-infused compositions for stage and symphony orchestra bridged jazz and classical music in boundary-breaking new ways, lending credence to his senior thesis at Harvard, in which he asserted that “jazz is the universal basis of American composition.”

Blanchard, in a career now in its fifth decade, has consistently expanded upon Bernstein’s thesis, riffing on classical motifs with his Grammy-winning jazz ensembles and enlivening operas, symphony orchestras, and scores upon scores of (film) scores by reminding audiences that jazz is not just an idiomatic musical language; it’s also, in the right hands, an unforgettably moving narrative tool.

Blanchard did not become this prolific by accident. Growing up in New Orleans, he studied piano with Ellis Marsalis and played trumpet alongside Ellis’ son, Wynton, at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Blanchard would move to metro New York after high school, first studying at Rutgers and soon gigging with Lionel Hampton’s orchestra before replacing an old friend in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers—Wynton Marsalis, of course, recommended his Crescent City compatriot for the chair.

Blanchard matriculated at hard bop’s most prestigious work-study under Headmaster Blakey from 1982 to 1990, becoming the Jazz Messengers’ music director and playing mostly alongside Mulgrew Miller (piano), Lonnie Plaxico (bass), Jean Toussaint (tenor sax), and Donald Harrison (alto sax) on several well received, late-stage Blakey recordings, including the Grammy-winning live date New York Scene (1984).

Blanchard’s gone on to win five more Grammys, none more emotionally impactful than the one he received in 2007 for A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina). A re-working and expansion of parts of the score Blanchard had composed for Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, the album comprised Blanchard’s quintet accompanied by the 40-piece Northwest Sinfonia. Read the full story here.

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