Saturday, February 16, 2008

PCE Performs "Free to Sing" at Strathmore

Date: February 16, 2008 (Saturday)
Time: 8:00 P.M.
Place: Music Center at Strathmore (directions)


"Free To Sing: The Story of the First African-American Opera Company" is an original Strathmore production featuring 19th Century Music

Commissioned by Strathmore, the original script charts the personal advancement of some of Washington D.C.’s most prominent African- American individuals, as they use their musical talent to raise money for their church community and build schools for their children in the 1870s. Free to Sing focuses on the musical accomplishments of the Opera Company with an introductory narrative. The creative team for the show includes: Emmy Award-winning director Scot Reese, Joseph Horowitz and Angel Gil-Ordóñez of the Post-Classical Ensemble, and the Morgan State University Choir under the direction of Eric Conway.

Almost 150 years ago, in 1858, St. Martin’s Parish, now known as St. Augustine’s Church, was founded as a place of worship for Washington D.C.’s African American Catholic population. With a heavy emphasis on music and education, the church employed the expertise of a former Marine Band member, Professor John Esputa, to lead their chorus. Recognizing the great musical talent found in the church, choir member Willia.m. T. Benjamin and Professor Esputa went on to form the Colored American Opera Company. In 1873, the Opera Company presented 7 performances of Julius Eichberg’s The Doctor of Alcantara to mixed race audiences—two at Lincoln Hall (capacity 1,500) and two at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C., and three at Agricultural Hall in Philadelphia.

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