Tuesday, August 29, 2017

ArkansasOnline: UCA to preview scene in Central High opera [Music by composer Tania León]

Tania  León (b. 1943)

Entire production set for July debut

CONWAY -- With the help of Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s historical knowledge and Tania Leon's musical talent, the University of Central Arkansas' dream of an opera commemorating the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock Central High School is closer to reality.
Gates, a Harvard University professor and host of the PBS program Finding Your Roots, is serving as a historical consultant on the opera. The Cuban-born Leon, a highly regarded composer and conductor, is the opera's composer. Author and playwright Thulani Davis is the librettist, or writer.
The public will get a preview of one scene from the two-hour opera Sept. 25 at UCA's Reynolds Performance Hall. Gates and Leon also will address the audience and participate in a discussion moderated by UCA journalism professor Donna Lampkin Stephens.
Among the performers will be four UCA graduates singing the arias of four Little Rock Nine students: Nisheedah Golden as Elizabeth Eckford, Ronald W. Jensen-McDaniel as Jefferson Thomas, Candace Harris as Minnijean Brown and Kendra Thomas as Melba Pattillo.
UCA "dared to dream" of commissioning such an opera in 2011, and now that dream is "coming to fruition," Gayle Seymour, associate dean of UCA's College of Fine Arts and Communication, recalled during an on-campus news conference Monday. "We anticipate the opera's July 2018 completion."
Details on a production date and location have not been announced.

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