Terence Blanchard’s historic debut centers Blackness at Met Opera stage

The highly anticipated opera has received rave reviews from NPR, The New York Times, and more

Terence Blanchard is making history at the Met. Fire Shut Up in My Bones, a new opera that centers Blackness, has finally made its debut at the Met Opera stage.

Fire Shut Up in My Bones, the new opera by Blanchard, first premiered in 2019 at the Theatre of St. Louis. While The Met commissioned the opera after it’s well-received debut, the original plan was not for the opera to open the season after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. General manager of The Met, Peter Gelb, revealed that summer 2020 and the Black Lives Matter movement certainly made an impact on them and the show they chose to open their return season, NPR reports.

Through Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Blanchard has made history as the first Black composer to create a mainstage Met production –after 138 years.

Terence Blanchard thegrio.com
Terence Blanchard attends The Hollywood Reporter 2019 Oscar Nominee Party at CUT on February 04, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

It seems that not only is Fire Shut Up in My Bones historic, but it’s also a critical success for the Met. NPR gave the show a rave review, referring to it as, a “singular achievement and a shared success.”

Critic Nate Chinen wrote of his experience, “the audience and the company basked together in this breakthrough during a stirring, momentous premiere at The Met on Monday night. And what was perhaps most remarkable about the performance was the clear, untroubled confidence with which Blanchard and his collaborators carried the weight of expectations.”

The New York Times also gave the show a glowing review, making it an official “critic’s pick.” “‘Fire’ remains a fresh, affecting work. You believe in these characters from watching scenes of their everyday lives,” critic Anthony Tommasini writes when comparing it to the 2019 production.

Writing of the demographic shift in the audience and talent, he declared, “Enthusiastic ovations at the end greeted Blanchard, a jazz trumpeter best known for his scores for Spike Lee films, and Kasi Lemmons, the writer, director and actress who with “Fire” becomes the first Black librettist of a work performed by the Met in its history. It was exhilarating to see them cheered on by an almost entirely Black cast, chorus and dance troupe, as well as by an audience with notably more people of color than usual at a Met opening.”

Terence Blanchard thegrio.com
(Credit: Getty Images)

Blanchard recently sat down with theGrio‘s Christina M. Greer, and he opened up about the journey Fire Shut Up in My Bones has taken, his approach to writing the score and more. Speaking of bringing his Jazz experience to classical music, he insisted when speaking with Greer that they are not as far apart as one would think.

“I was taught that jazz was a logical extension of the classical world of harmony and rhythm, so I never saw them as that separate,” he explained. “The separation came from narrow-mindedness of people who did either just jazz or just classical, and did not look at the other side. But not for me.”

He added, “Writing this opera has allowed me to do something I learned years ago. My mentor, Roger, said it’s great to write for an orchestra, but there may be bigger things in your path. He told me that even with my experience in jazz and the film world, I should also think about bringing that rhythm and harmonic concept to the world, and that’s what I’m doing with opera.”

Read the full interview with Blanchard for theGrio, here.

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