Naomi André, Associate Director for Faculty for the Residential College as well as an Associate Professor, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Department of Women's Studies, and the RC, has published the program notes for Giuseppe Verdi's operatic masterpiece La traviata for the Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2019 production. The essay gives the reader a bit of historical background to Verdi and the opera's formation, as well as Naomi's discerning view of the piece as seen through current events and social movements.
"The topic of women's positions in society that weren't rooted in the domestic sphere was bold in the 1850s and remains relevant today. We live in an era where gender dynamics are even more complicated; the growing identities around trans people and the #MeToo movement have uncovered much inequity between the ways all kinds of women are treated in a social system architecturally designed by and for men. Yet in this biased atmosphere of La traviata, the audiences also witnesses how Giorgio Germont is affected by Violetta. He sees and acknowledges her dignity."
To read the entire essay, see the La traviata program on Lyric Opera of Chicago's website at this link. Lyric Opera of Chicago is renowned internationally for its artistic excellence and financial strength. Founded in 1954, Lyric has always distinguished itself by presenting the finest international singers, conductors, directors, and designers in classic and less-familiar operatic repertoire and in world-premiere productions.
Naomi published Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement in May 2018 with University of Illinois Press. In the book, Naomi draws on the experiences of performers and audiences to explore this music's resonance with today's listeners. Interacting with creators and performers, as well as with the works themselves, Naomi reveals how black opera unearths suppressed truths. These truths provoke complex, if uncomfortable, reconsideration of racial, gender, sexual, and other oppressive ideologies. Opera, in turn, operates as a cultural and political force that employs an immense, transformative power to represent or even liberate. You can read more about her other published works and contributions here.
The excerpt from Naomi's essay "Engaging Verdi's La traviata Today" is courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago.