The Music Critics Association of North America (MCANA) has given its 2020 Award for Best New Opera to composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson for Blue.
This is MCANA’s Fourth Annual Award for Best New Opera, a major recognition given annually by an Awards Committee of distinguished music critics. Honoring an opera premiered in either the United States or Canada, it is the only award in the US and one of the few in the world that simultaneously recognizes both composer and librettist. The MCANA committee completed its deliberations and made the selection of Blue as the winner on 12 March 2020 – long before the current turmoil stemming from the police killing of George Floyd.
Blue was commissioned and given its world premiere by The Glimmerglass Festival in July 2019. (For review, click here.) The opera focuses on an African-American couple living in Harlem, filled with hope and fear for their activist teenage son. The mother worries for his future; the father, while preparing his son for the realities of twenty-first-century America, wrestles with his own identity as a police officer, a ‘Black man in Blue’. When tragedy strikes, the grief-stricken parents seek answers and support from their church and community.
In response to winning the award, Jeanine Tesori said:
‘I am thrilled to receive the Best New Opera award from the MCANA. Blue celebrates the African-American family and the consequences of possibility denied. While it is my hope that this work is presented world-wide, I also pray for the day that it does not seem, as it does now, ripped from the news of our daily lives. I thank the MCANA for this honor’.
Tazewell Thompson said:
‘I am honored to be the recipient of the MCANA Award. I wrote Blue from a passionate need and responsibility to tell the personal family story behind the numbing numbers of unarmed African Americans killed by white police officers. To garner the prize from such a highly accomplished and prestigious jury of judges is overwhelming. To share this distinction with my brilliant collaborator, Jeanine Tesori, makes it especially sweet’.
Blue was scheduled for performances at the Kennedy Center in March, Lyric Opera of Chicago in June and Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival in July; all of these have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Blue has been rescheduled for the Lyric Opera of Chicago in January 2021, and Minnesota Opera will present it in February 2021.
Runners-up to Blue were Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis); and prisoner of the state by David Lang (NY Philharmonic).
For more about the MCANA click here.