Opera is shaped by many voices — from the composer and librettist who create a story to the singers who bring those stories to life onstage. How do these artists’ lived experiences impact their work? And how does your own perspective shape your experience as a member of the audience?

In 2021, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis began an exploration of race and opera in partnership with Washington University’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity and Department of Music. Now in its second year, this new series explores how perspective shapes and influences opera. Every artist brings new vibrancy to this art form, keeping it as relevant today as it was centuries ago. Join us as we engage with singers, composers, and scholars to explore how race has shaped and continues to animate the operatic genre.

January 27–29: Engage with internationally acclaimed artist J’Nai Bridges

Presented by Washington University Department of Music and CRE2 

American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, known for her “plush-voiced mezzo-soprano” (The New York Times), and “calmly commanding stage presence” (The New Yorker) has been heralded as “a rising star” (Los Angeles Times), gracing the world’s top opera and concert stages.  In the midst of the worldwide pandemic, she emerged as a leading figure in classical music’s shift toward conversations of inclusion and racial justice in the performing arts.  Bridges led a highly successful panel on race and inequality in opera with the Los Angeles Opera that drew international acclaim for being “a conversation of striking scope and candor” (The New York Times). 

Friday, January 27: Conversation & Cocktails with J’Nai Bridges

Washington University’s 560 Music Center
5 p.m.

Opera star and Great Artists Series performer J’Nai Bridges joins OTSL Gerdine Young Artist Melissa Joseph for an evening of conversation and cocktails. Learn more about their musical inspirations, what it is like being a star of the opera world, and the power of the artist as activist. 

Sunday, January 29: Great Artist Series featuring J’Nai Bridges in Recital

Washington University’s 560 Music Center
7:00 p.m.
Tickets $15–$40

This first performance of the 2023 Great Artist Series will feature J’Nai Bridges in recital with pianist Mark Markham, with a program featuring Johannes Brahms, Maurice Ravel, Manuel de Falla, and John Carter. 

Saturday, February 4: “Our Song, Our Story” with composer Damien Sneed

Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries
8:00 p.m.
Tickets $36–$46

Co-presented by the Sheldon Arts Foundation & Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Damien Sneed, the multi-genre composer who created OTSL’s 2021 The Tongue & The Lash and the 2023 re-imagined Treemonisha, will lead an evening of music highlighting some of the world’s most well-known operatic arias, art songs and spirituals.  Featuring Justin Austin (former Gerdine Young Artist at OTSL and starring in Treemonisha), Jacqueline Echols, and Janinah Burnett, the concert pays homage to Marian Anderson and Jessye Norman, who have paved the way for other African American opera singers.  

Thursday, March 9: Meet the Makers, An Insider’s Look at OTSL’s New Works Collective

Washington University’s 560 Music Center
7:00 p.m.
Free registration

Co-presented by Opera Theatre, Washington University’s CRE2 and Department of Music

Last winter, more than 130 artists applied to create new operas with OTSL. Ultimately, just three multi-genre teams were selected by a panel of St. Louis artists, advocates, and community leaders. Meet the artists who are pushing the boundaries of opera, hear musical excerpts from their works, and learn more from acclaimed scholars at Washington University about the context surrounding each story. 

Moderated by Professor Adrienne Davis, featuring artists Tre’von Griffith, Joe X. Jiang, Simon Tam, and Del’Shawn Taylor, Professor Marlon M. Bailey and Post-Doctoral Fellow in African and African American Studies,  Dr. Ashley Dennis.

Saturday, March 11: Artwork & Arias

Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM)
7:00 p.m.
Free registration

Presented by CAM and Opera Theatre with support from Washington University’s CRE2.

Experience artistic forms of ball culture and performance through this interdisciplinary event that brings together opera and the visual arts. The evening is presented on the opening weekend of Jacolby Satterwhite’s exhibition at CAM, Spirits Roaming on the Earth, and provides musical excerpts from Tre’von Griffith’s opera Madison Lodge, commissioned as part of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’s 2023 New Works Collective. Both Satterwhite and Griffith draw inspiration from the history of and community created in the space of ball culture, also celebrated through this free event. Visitors will have a chance to enjoy a selection from Madison Lodge in advance of its March 16 world premiere, as well as presentations and performances from members of St. Louis’s ball community.

6:30 pm Doors open
7:00 pm Performance of Madison Lodge selection
7:20 pm Conversation between Tre’von Griffith and Meko Lee Burr
7:30 pm Vogueing presentation