The Time of Our Singing © Leonard Freed – Magnum Photos i
"Singing might make more sense of life than living had to start with."
— Richard Powers (The Time of Our Singing)
Following The Woman Who Walked into Doors (2001) and House of the Sleeping Beauties (2009), this is composer Kris Defoort’s third operatic adaptation of a novel. As soon as he had finished reading The Time of Our Singing, Kris Defoort expressed the wish to turn the Richard Powers novel into an opera and approached La Monnaie’s Intendant Peter de Caluwe. This was the start of a long creative process, marked by two important moments: the encounter with the librettist Peter van Kraaij and the moment when the young director Ted Huffman joined the artistic team, bringing to it his intimate knowledge of American history and society.
Against the backdrop of post-war segregation in his country, Richard Powers describes how a racially mixed family is both united and pulled apart by music. The Time of Our Singing tells the story of a black woman, Delia Daley, who marries a white (Jewish) man, David Strom. They have three children: Jonah, Joey, and Ruth. The family is always singing or making music, and the children soon prove to have as much musical talent as their mother, for whom – in times of segregation – a professional career in music was unthinkable because of the colour of her skin. The children grow up in the Civil Rights era and have the opportunity to begin careers in classical music – an eminently ‘white’ world. This is the path chosen by both brothers, while their younger sister gets involved with the radical Black Panther movement. Their so united family falls apart…
Both novel and opera explore fascinating themes such as civil rights, segregation, identity, and the conflict between art and real life. In adapting the book for the libretto, Peter van Kraaij had to make major changes and cuts, but the musicality of the novelist’s language, the great leaps in time, and the powerful themes of the novel have been taken into account.
Reconnecting with the very origins of opera itself, this work is really about the power of music.
Composer: Kris Defoort Libretto: Peter van Kraaij Conductor: Kwamé Ryan Director: Ted Huffman Set Design: Johannes Schütz Costumes: Astrid Klein Lightning: Bernd Purkrabek Video: Pierre Martin Dramaturgy: Peter van Kraaij, Antonio Cuenca Ruiz
Delia Daley: Claron McFadden William Daley: Mark S. Doss David Strom: Peter Coleman-Wright Jonah: Levy Sekgapane Joey: Peter Brathwaite Ruth: Abigail Abraham Lisette Soer: Lilly Jørstad
La Monnaie Chamber Orchestra Jazz Ensemble (Mark Turner, Lander Gyselinck, Nicholas Thys, Hendrik Lasure) La Monnaie Children's and Youth Choir, led by Benoît Giaux
Peter van Kraaij
Role: Delia Daley
Mark S. Doss
Role: William Daley
Role: David Strom
Role: Lisette Soer