Wednesday, January 27, 2010

BU Today: 'Opera Star Grace Bumbry Returns to BU'; Scott Joplin's 'Treemonisha'

[Grace Bumbry]

BU Today
Boston University
January 27, 2010

Busy 'retirement' for humanitarian, distinguished alum
By Susan Seligson
Internationally celebrated mezzo soprano Grace Bumbry, whose voice — that sultry, wide-ranging instrument — has inhabited every major operatic heroine, from Santuzza to Dalila to Eboli to Salome, and an unforgettably seductive Carmen, returns to BU this week. The distinguished alumna will address students and the public at the Metcalf Ballroom tonight, as part of the Friends of the Libraries speaker series. An honorary UNESCO ambassador and one of the world’s leading vocal teachers, Bumbry (CFA’55) created the Black Musical Heritage Ensemble, and was one of the 2009 recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors. She will be in residence at the school of music through January 29.

Bumbry, 73, who retired from the stage in 1997, recently accepted the role of the mother in an upcoming Paris production of the Scott Joplin opera Treemonisha, the story of an African-American community’s emergence from slavery. The opera's opening at the Théâtre du Châtelet will mark the 50th anniversary of Bumbry’s opera debut. She spoke to BU Today from her home in Salzburg, Austria.”

BU Today: Were there any offers you just couldn’t refuse?
I’ve accepted the role of the mother in the Scott Joplin opera Treemonisha. It’s at Châtelet in Paris, where I made my operatic debut in 1960. I chose to do it because the content of this piece has to do with the education of blacks from that period. For me it has more value than Porgy and Bess, and that’s had so much exposure. Why not let Treemonisha have the same kind of exposure? I’ve just begun learning it. Rehearsals start in March; you don’t know what to expect with directors with quote-unquote brilliant careers. They didn’t divulge what their ideas were, but they kept insisting I do this role — I didn’t immediately accept it.” [Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was a Ragtime and Classical composer and pianist of African descent who is profiled at]

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