Portland Opera debuts its multi-year project to commission new operas featuring stories and histories of BIPOC Oregonians for their Portland Opera to Go (POGO) program for young audiences, and their first original work is the biographical story of Black civil rights activist Beatrice Morrow Cannady, who lived in Portland from 1912 to 1938. Young people will learn about Cannady, who fought the Ku Klux Klan in Oregon, co-founded the Portland chapter of the NAACP, and was the first Black female editor of Portland’s first Black newspaper, The Advocate.
Beatrice, a new 50-minute opera for middle grade audiences and up, will tour Oregon schools later this year. It gets its World Premiere at Portland Opera’s Hampton Opera Center on Sept. 17 and 18, 2022.
Dmae Lo Roberts talked with Portland Opera and the artists, based in Nashville, Tennessee…
Alexis Hamilton, manager of education and community engagement on location at Portland Opera: “Beatrice’s life is so extraordinary. She was essentially a journalist, editor, the typesetter, the everything for The Advocate. And then, she was busy with her work with the NAACP, she became a lawyer, and was the first African American woman in Oregon to get a law degree. She was everywhere. And so, yes, it, it was very difficult to kind of narrow down, but the through line in it is her battle against (the movie) Birth of a Nation.”
Mary McCallum, librettist of Beatrice, “When I started digging into her story, one of the things that really stuck out for me is that she did not let that fight go. The movie was brought to the Portland area several times, and first time, she was adamant against it. But this film just kept coming back, which was amazing to me. I think we say this somewhere in the opera, it’s like, will this ever go away? The fact that she had to keep, you know, fighting for this film to not be shown and she didn’t give up that fight.”
Dave Ragland, composer of Beatrice, (who has also worked as a substitute teacher in middle school): “Especially with Beatrice I write for the young person sitting in the back of the eighth grade history class who may or may not have gotten enough sleep last night or who may or may not have had enough to eat that morning or the night before.”
More about the composer and librettist:
Dave Ragland, composer, is a four-time Emmy-nominated composer, vocalist, and educator. He has been hailed as “uber-talented” and “Nashville’s go-to composer” by the Nashville Scene. Dave received the 2021 American Prize in Composition, two Telly Awards, and two Emmy nominations for Nashville Opera’s first-ever commission, One Vote Won – an opera commemorating the centennial of women’s suffrage. Dave also received an Emmy nomination for composition and music direction for the Frist Art Museum’s Nick Cave: Feat, Nashville. Dave was awarded Outstanding Music Director by the First Night Honors for Nashville Repertory Theater’s production of Ragtime. Ragland served as Artist-in-Residence for OZ Arts Nashville during its 2020- 2021 Season. His residency culminated with the debut of his opera Steal Away – a collaboration with Inversion Vocal Ensemble, Diaspora Orchestra, and shackled feet dance. Dave arranged Lift Every Voice and Sing for Grammy-nominated opera singer Lawrence Brownlee for “Concert for Inauguration Day,” presented by Washington National Opera. Additional composition credits include Los Angeles Opera, Portland Opera, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Nashville Symphony, Nashville Ballet, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Intersection Contemporary Ensemble, chatterbird, and the Grammy-nominated ALIAS Chamber Ensemble.
Mary McCallum, librettist, received her B.S. and M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University. She is the founder of SistaStyle Productions in Nashville. Writing highlights: Her play SingleVille was a winner of the D.C. Black Theatre Festival One Act Battle and was a mainstage selection for the prestigious National Black Theatre Festival. Her play Six Triple Eight took top prize at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival and Tampa Bay Theatre Festival. The movie version of SingleVille (writer, co-director, actress) won several awards in 2018 including Best Feature at the Twin Cities Black Film festival and the International Black Film Festival. Chasing Jeremy was a screenplay winner at the British Urban Film Festival and a finalist at the Urban World Film Festival. In 2019, she was a winner of the “Women Who Rock Nashville” award for the arts. In 2020, she was selected as the librettist for Nashville Opera’s first mainstage commission One Vote Won, for which she received a Telly Award and is currently nominated for a Regional Emmy Award. In 2021, the screenplay version of Six Triple Eight won Best Screenplay at the JNX Film Festival and British Urban Film Festival.
More about POGO: For more than two decades, Portland Opera to Go (or POGO) has shared inclusive arts experiences with students, educators and community members around the region. In a typical year, POGO company members travel over 5,000 miles, to connect with approximately 13,000 K-12 students. Performances happen in school gyms, libraries, cafeterias, classrooms, and community centers—all with full costumes and portable scenery. Integrated in-class workshops and teacher’s guides, highlighting curricular connections aligned to state curriculum standards, are available each year.
Beatrice tickets are on sale now. Adult standard tickets are $35, and student/youth tickets are $10. Tickets may be purchased at portlandopera.org or via phone. A limited number of Arts for All tickets are available on a first-come-first-served basis for these two performances.
Beatrice will be sung in English with projected English captions. The running time will be 50 minutes, with no intermission.
The performance on September 18 will include an audio description of the visual and physical events on stage for patrons who are blind or have low vision. For patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing, each performance is visually translated with English text projected above the stage.
For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit portlandopera.org or call patron services at 503-241-1802. For more information, patrons may also contact the Opera Concierge at firstname.lastname@example.org, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.