Music teacher recreates inaugural role in new US opera “Blue”


October 15, 2021

Gordon Hawkins, internationally renowned baritone and vocal teacher at the ASU School of Music, Dance and Theater, performed the role of “The Reverend” in Tazewell Thompson’s powerful new opera “Blue” with the Michigan Opera Theater , September 11-12 at the Aretha Franklin Outdoor Amphitheater in Detroit.

“The performances at the Michigan Opera Theater represent a commitment to bringing dramatic musical theater back to audiences, while simultaneously addressing the pervasive problem of excessive policing in urban communities across the United States,” said Hawkins.

Gordon Hawkins playing the role of the Reverend in “Blue”.
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Winner of the 2020 Music Critics Association of North America Award for Best New Opera, “Blue” is a new American opera that tells the story of an African-American family with a father who is a black New York police officer whose the son is shot and killed by another white officer.

The award, presented annually by an awards committee of eminent music critics, is a major recognition honoring an opera premiered in the United States or Canada, and is the only award in the United States and one of the few in the world. to simultaneously reward the two composer and librettist.

“Blue”, libretto by playwright Tazewell Thompson and score by composer Jeanine Tesori, featured a star cast led by a female creative team made up of Kaneza Schaal, director, and Daniela Candillari, conductor.

Hawkins made his debut as the Reverend, a Roman Catholic priest, at the opera’s world premiere at the famous Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York, in July 2019.

He was also due to sing the role at the Kennedy Center with the Washington National Opera in early March 2020, but the production was canceled due to COVID-19. Other performances canceled due to the pandemic include the Lyric Opera of Chicago in June and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in July 2020.

The creation of “Blue”, a nickname given to police officers, began in 2015 after a series of incidents across America in which several young black men were shot dead by white police officers. After a series of conversations between artists and friends of Hawkins at the Glimmerglass Festival, the idea of ​​an opera on the subject was discussed and the ensuing piece was then put in the studio for a few years.

Francesca Zambello, Managing Director of the Glimmerglass Festival, contacted Hawkins in early 2019 and asked her to play the role of Reverend.

“Blue” tells the story “behind the headlines” and explores in detail the issue of grief associated with such a tragedy.

While there are obvious racial overtones implicit in the play, Hawkins said the script does not focus on racial conflict per se.. While such incidents often grab the headlines, the impact on immediate family and the community is rarely reported.

“This piece cannot stand, and I know that once people get to see this work in person, they will be changed forever,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins is considered a leading Alberich in the opera world, and his signature roles as Scarpia de Tosca and Rigoletto in the opera of the same name has taken him to some of the most esteemed companies and symphonies nationally and internationally. He has performed with the Washington National Opera, the BBC Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Deutsche Oper in Berlin and the Teatro Maestranza in Seville, Spain.

Recently he played the role of The Warden in “Dead Man Walkingwith Lyric Opera of Chicago, the role of Amonasro in “Aïda” with Washington National Opera and Seattle Opera, and Scarpia in “Tosca” with Arizona Opera, Lyric Opera Kansas City and Cincinnati Opera. In concert he sang the song of Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen ” and that of Daniel Bernard Roumain Harvest ”with the ASU Symphony Orchestra.

Hawkins has shared the opera and concert stage with such distinguished artists as Placido Domingo, Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti. All over the world he is associated with a wide range of roles and dramatic characters in the German, Italian and American lyric repertoire.

He is an alumnus of the American Institute of Musical Studies (1983), recipient of a George London scholarship, former winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions and the Luciano Pavarotti competition, and former artist in residence at AIMS Graz. Hawkins also served on the Opera Review Advisory Board for the National Endowment of the Arts and was honored as “Artist of the Year” for Washington National Opera.

Hawkins will recreate her flagship role of Scarpia this fall at the Portland Opera.

“As I got older, my advice to students pursuing a career in opera has changed over the years,” said Hawkins. “It’s important for a singer to understand what their strengths and weaknesses are, and then to work diligently every day to improve them. The biggest lie singers tell each other is that there’s nothing left for me to work on. There is always more to do.


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