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Fire Shut Up In My Bones, by Terence Blanchard, Libretto by Kasi Lemmons

Metropolitan Opera / New York / Music

At Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, world premieres of groundbreaking new titles are business as usual. In 2013, the company mounted the renowned jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s first opera, Champion, based on the life of the gay welterweight boxer Emile Griffith, who once killed an opponent in the ring. In 2019, Blanchard was back with Fire Shut Up In My Bones, a second probe into racism and Black masculinity, drawn this time from the wrenching memoir of the New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow. Excellent notices notwithstanding, few would have expected either work to transfer to a legacy monolith like the Metropolitan Opera. Then came the pandemic. Then came Black Lives Matter. And amid apocalyptic uncertainties, one thing was clear as day: if the art form was to survive, things would look different. Opening the new season with Fire Shut Up In My Bones, the Met acknowledges new imperatives. Note: Never before has the company staged a work by a Black composer. —M.G.

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