Travel back in time with the New Orleans Opera Association as they present the Gulf Coast premiere of Josephine by Tom Cipullo, which, according to the Washington Post, is a "theatrically riveting" masterpiece that celebrates the life of American activist, dancer, and singer Josephine Baker. The opera is directed by No Dream Deferred Artistic Director Lauren Turner and conducted by founder and artistic director of Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra Jerri Lynne Johnson.
Having been in the theater scene as a little girl, Baker moved to Paris where she starred in TV programs, held live concerts, and published several books, and, while doing so, defied racial stereotypes and became an icon in France. She also received recognition for her involvement with the French Resistance during World War II, which consisted of undertaking spy missions, hiding Jewish and Resistance members in her chateau, and using her fame to garner information from the enemy lines.
On April 8, 1975, Baker performed in front of a live audience filled with guests and celebrities from around the world. The concert was a spectacular revue celebrating five decades of her fame and fortune. This would be the last performance of her life. Following her death, she was posthumously rewarded with military honors and most recently inducted into the Panthéon.
Originally authorized by UrbanArias in 2016, this single-scene, one-act opera stars Laquita Mitchell as the eponymous Baker, who is being interviewed by a journalist before her final performance. She tells him the story of her life and how she rose to stardom, as well as the good and the bad that came from it. Following the opera will be a ballet choreographed by Lauren Ashlee Messina, which features dance moves inspired by Baker's many performances.
The opera and ballet will perform at the Marigny Opera House on January 6-8 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, January 9, at 2:30 p.m. In addition, New Orleans Opera will host a Community Conversation on Saturday, January 8, at 11 a.m., where Turner, Johnson, and Messina will give a history on Baker as well as their thoughts and experiences of putting on the production. Those wishing to attend must reserve a spot by emailing Director of Community Partnerships and Education Dr. Tara A. Melvin.
While tickets are sold out, guests interested in seeing the opera can try to get a spot on the waiting list by calling the box office at 504-529-3000. For more information about Josephine, visit neworleansopera.org.