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The International Contemporary Ensemble, in partnership with Opera Omaha and FringeArts, presents the Afro-Diasporic Opera Forum online from May 26-28, 2021 with an opening session on Tuesday, May 25, 2021 at 7pm ET. The Forum is a free, three-day series of online events produced by colleagues and collaborators of the International Contemporary Ensemble in order to celebrate, share, and reflect on three operas that have had a major impact on the organization and collaborators.

They include: George Lewis’ Afterword (2015), Dr. Tyshawn Sorey’s Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine Baker (2016), Pauline Oliveros and IONE’s The Nubian Word for Flowers: A Phantom Opera (2017). The Forum will end with the screening of Lisa E. Harris’ recent digital opera, Cry of the Third Eye (2020).

These works, which focus on stories of Black experiences, are critical in pushing the canon forward. Over the three days, conversations and presentations will contextualize these works, showing the many ways in which they intersect, and their connection to the past, present, and future of a reimagined/reinvented opera.

In order to cultivate awareness among presenters, producers, ensembles, and audiences, the Ensemble will bring these works into conversation with one another and with leading scholars in the field. Renowned musicologist Dr. Naomi André is the lead scholar and conversation partner for this three-day series featuring presenters and panelists such as Julia Bullock, IONE, George Lewis, Dr. Tyshawn Sorey, and many others (see below for full list).

“This Forum is an exciting articulation of where opera is going. Let’s understand it for what it’s doing now to bring the genre forward.” – Dr. Naomi André

Throughout this Forum, attendees, presenters, and panelists are guided by the following questions:

What impact do these works have for opera today?
What is the role of composer, librettist, and performer?
How do these operas give us new ways to reimagine and expand what the genre is and meant to be?

Specific topics will emerge from the artists and scholars present in each session. For many of the presenters/panelists, this is a first encounter – first time meeting each other and first time engaging with these operas. The Forum’s goal is to foster openness when engaging with opera and bring people together.

To receive updates and news, please register here.

Program Information

Afro-Diasporic Opera Forum 

Free, Online, Open to the Public 

More Information: http://www.iceorg.org/aof

Register: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/afro-diasporic-opera-forum-tickets-149156153069 All times in Eastern Daylight Time 

TUESDAY, MAY 25, 2021 – Prologue 

7-8:00pm – Welcome

● Informal gathering for all presenters and attendees

WEDNESDAY, MAY 26, 2021 – ACT I 

12:30-2pm – Scene I 

● Opening Address: Dr. Naomi André

● Speakers: Dr. Matthew D. Morrison, Dr. Dr. Daniele G. Daude, Dr. Fredara Hadley

3-4pm – Scene II 

Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine: a conversation with Dr. Tyshawn Sorey, Julia Bullock, and Dr. Naomi André

5-6pm – Scene III 

● Speakers: Lisa E. Harris, IONE, Helga Davis, Melanie Bacaling

7-9 pm – Scene IV 

● Screening: Afterword (2015) by George Lewis


11-12:15pm – Scene I 

● Speakers: Dr. Naomi André, George Lewis, IONE, Sharan Strange

3-4pm – Scene II 

● Speakers: Dr. Courtney Bryan, Dr. Matthew D. Morrison, Dr. Fredara Hadley

● Moderator: George Lewis

7-9pm – Scene III 

● Screening: The Nubian Word for Flowers: A Phantom Opera (2017) by Pauline Oliveros & IONE


11-12:00pm – Scene I 

● George Lewis: The Work of Anthony Davis

3-4pm – Scene II 

● Dr. Derrell Acon with introduction by Dr. Naomi André

5-6:30pm – Scene III 

● Speakers: Dr. Naomi André, Dr. Derrell Acon, Melanie Bacaling, Lisa E. Harris ● Closing remarks

7-9pm – Scene IV 

● Screening: Cry of the Third Eye (2020) by Lisa E. Harris

Artists, Presenters, Panelists 

Dr. Naomi André 

Professor, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies

Department of Women’s and Gender Studies

The Residential College

University of Michigan,

Author: Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement (University of Illinois Press)

George Lewis, composer and scholar, Afterword (2015)

Dr. Tyshawn Sorey, composer, scholar, and instrumentalist, Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine (2016) Julia Bullock, classical singer, Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine (2016)

IONE, author, performer, director, The Nubian Word for Flowers: A Phantom Opera (2017), Author: Pride of Family (Publisher: Harlem Moon Classics – Penguin Random House)

Dr. Courtney Bryan, composer and instrumentalist, Awakening (2022)

Helga Davis, vocalist & performance artist

Dr. Matthew D. Morrison, musicologist & dramaturg

Sharan Strange, librettist

Melanie Bacaling, co-curator & associate producing director, Opera Omaha’s Amplifying the Black Experience series

Dr. Fredara Hadley, ethnomusicologist, recent research focus: Shirley Graham Du Bois’ Tom Tom Dr. Dr. Daniele G. Daude, scholar & dramaturg

Lisa E. Harris, vocalist, composer, interdisciplinary artist

Dr. Derrell Acon, activist, performer, & arts leader

The Afro-Diasporic Opera Forum is produced and hosted by the International Contemporary Ensemble withfinancial and organizational support from Opera Omaha, FringeArts, and Arlene and Larry Dunn.