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May 05, 2005 - Image 53

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-05-05

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from page 49

The story is based on the life of
Margaret Garner, a runaway slave
from Kentucky, who, facing recapture,
drowns her children and tries to com-
mit suicide. Her trial later became the
subject of an intense national debate.
The production includes a slave auc-
tion, a lynching and other typically
operatic tragic circumstances.
Yo-Yo Ma, the famed cellist for
whom Danielpour has written a con-
certo, introduced Danielpour to -
Morrison. Ironically, she had a similar
idea for an opera about the Margaret
Clockwise from left: Mezzo-soprano Denyc
Garner story — and the two clicked cre- Graves, composer Richard Danielpour and
atively, forming a working relationship. librettist Toni Morrison
Morrison had written Beloved based on
his music
posers, Danielpour
similar facts.
as being "very simple on the surface b
Danielpour was courted by some
complex underneath." His works
other opera companies to write an opera -
include Elegies, An American Requie
with more of a love story, but then
and In the Arms of the Beloved
"David [DiChiera] seemed to appear
"Margaret Garner has all the der
out of nowhere, met with me over a cup
of a great opera," said David DiC
of coffee, and we settled on the current
MOT general director. "Our dec .-
project," Danielpour recalls.
commission the opera is based
"What the African Americans went
desire that the first world premi
through in the South is not unlike the
our opera house should be the
anti-Semitism experienced by Jewish
of a musical and literary collabo.
people for centuries, including my fami-
extraordinary artistic significant
ly" Danielpour explained.
Hosting an original American c
"We know about ethnic hatred. I've
a crowning achievement for DiC
always had a strong affinity for African
now in his 34th year as the head
Americans. This racial prejudice is por-
MOT and almost 10 years after th
trayed in Margaret Garner. The opera
grand reopening of the world-class
confronts the horrors of enslavement
Detroit Opera House
and Civil War-era America, but also
MOT announced recently that it 1 - t
delves into the irrepressible power of the
successfully concluded the final phase
human spirit."
a capital campaign, raising more than
Danielpour's parents, Iranian Jews,
$21 million from 450 donors to reno-
fled the Nazis during World War II, set-
vate the opera house and add the Ford
ding in New York where Danielpour
Center for Arts Learning, a theater,
(which means son of Daniel) was born
classrooms and new parking structure.
and still lives.
"This will put the final total cost of the
"I have a strong Jewish heritage, and
opera house project at about $75 mil-
I'm proud of the fact that my ancestors
lion," added DiChiera, "compared with
can be traced back as guards of the
$250 million for some arts centers across
Tomb of Esther," says the composer,
the country."Two prominent Jewish
who began tinkering with the piano on
families are sponsoring facilities in the
his own at age 5, after he heard a pianist
new center: The Margo V. Cohn .Cente
play Chopin- on television.
for Dance will be on the fifth floor,
"I even started writing music at age
the Marion and David Handelman
13," he said, "but I really didn't take
Media Studio will occupy the fourth
piano seriously until I began getting les-
sons from a teacher at 16."
The family moved to Florida where
The world premiere of Margaret
Danielpour, an ardent baseball fan, did a
Garner takes place 8 p.m.
stint as a batboy in spring training for
Saturday, May 7, at the Detroit
the Atlanta Braves team.
Opera House, 1526 Broadway, in
He returned to the Northeast to get a
Detroit. Other performances are
bachelor's degree in music from the
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 11; 8
New England Conservatory of Music
p.m. Saturday, May 14, and
and a master's and doctoral degrees from
Friday, May 20; and 5 p.m.
the Juilliard School. He still teaches
Sunday, May 22. $35-$140. For
music in the New York and Philadelphia
tickets, call (313) 237-7464 or
areas and has composed for several
(248) 645-6666, or go to
major orchestras, musicians and singers.
Influenced by many classical com-


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