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The New Works Collective

A Note on the New Works Collective

by Director Kimille Howard

Stage director Kimille Howard

Opera is meant to be for everyone, regardless of creed, class, identity, or nation. After all, it is just one of the many forms of storytelling that transports the viewer visually and sonically to different times, places, and experiences in an effort to understand someone else’s world-view or to experience escapism. While that may be a given for those already immersed in the opera world, it is safe to assume that not everyone has always felt welcome or included.

Representation matters; it is the strongest invitation and catalyst for change. Thankfully, we are in an evolutionary period where composers and librettists are being invited to explore stories that focus on the human condition through an intersectional, multicultural lens. Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is at the forefront of changing the landscape of opera through initiatives like the New Works Collective, where incredible up-and-coming composers and librettists are empowered to experiment, collaborate, and share their voices with the St. Louis community. 

 

While these three world premiere operas will take audiences through very distinct walks of life, they all have two overarching themes: love and family. Through Mechanisms, we see the power of love lead to understanding and acceptance in a family forced to confront the unexpected. In Unbroken, love is the guiding light that helps a family process and accept a difficult transition. On My Mind is a love story between true friends, also known as our chosen family. These three powerful, diverse stories have been crafted with love, reverence, and conviction by artists aiming to start new conversations through opera. Through these three important works, I hope audiences feel moved, welcomed, and eager for more.

 

The New Works Collective runs March 14 – 16, 2024 at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center and features three diverse stories about the human spirit.

 

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Unbroken

By Ronald Maurice and J. Mae Barizo

Unbroken tells the resilient journey of Grace, a single mother, and her three sons. Grace loves her children fiercely, but she is sick and wants to prepare them for a possible future without her. Ezra, the oldest son, contemplates what it means to carry on his mother’s legacy and raise his two younger brothers. Grace and her sister, Aunt Susan, must teach the boys to see beauty in the midst of tragedy and to treasure the seeds that we all plant for future generations.

Ronald Maurice

Composer

J. Mae Barizo

Librettist

By J. E. Hernández and Marianna Mott Newirth

Neurodivergence, often invisible to the casual observer, can be deeply misunderstood. In math class, fifth grader Roe struggles to keep up; numbers only make sense to her when they’re a mesmerizing swirl of colors. Her teacher chides her for disrupting class and her mother tells her to try harder, but Roe’s father knows she isn’t doing anything wrong — Roe just has a different way of understanding numbers. In the end, Roe’s parents, teacher, and classmates come to realize the importance of empathy, adaptability, and hidden strengths.

J.E. Hernández

Composer

Marianna Mott Newirth

Librettist

On My Mind

By Jasmine Ariel Barnes and Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton

Traversing the hardest times with empathy and hope can create the sweetest friendships. Melodee and Lyric are both caregivers for elders in their respective families, struggling to balance their personal and professional duties with the irrepressible longing to laugh, live, and exist without guilt. When their worlds converge, they recognize a kindred spirit in one another. Their budding friendship leads to an unmatched sisterhood where strength, vulnerability, and joy go hand-in-hand.

Jasmine Barnes

Composer

Deborah D.E.E.P Mouton

Librettist

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Leadership support for the New Works Collective comes from the Mellon Foundation and the Edward Jones Foundation.

Accessibility enhancements for the New Works Collective are made possible by PNC Arts Alive, and in partnership with Different Dynamics, MindsEye, and TLC Interpreting Services LLC.

 

 

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Additional support for the New Works Collective comes from Sara Burke, Annemarie & Matt Schumacher, Susan & David Young, and Dr. Pamela Stuerke.