Davis: Amistad / Davies, Young, Doss, West, Quivar, Baker, et al

Album Summary

>Davis, Anthony : Amistad, opera in 2 acts
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Anthony Davis (b. 1951) has always straddled the worlds of classical music and jazz and his music has consistently sought to integrate the two in such a way as to defy facile categorizations. Amistad is an opera in two acts with full orchestra, double chorus, and an integrated jazz ensemble with trap drums that drives its motoric rhythmic flow. This recording is drawn from Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2007 world-premiere performances.

"With Amistad, a retelling of the 1839 slave ship revolt that resulted in one of the more searing legal trials and moral tests in US history, Davis' approach is at its most streamlined. While most of his score could stand alone as concert music, it still, for all its bristling rhythms, counterpoint and textures, selflessly serves Thulani Davis' pungent, no-frills libretto. This is attributable to how the composer has mastered the art of the ostinato and pens figures that are never overplayed to the point of being domineering or boorish. The result is that Davis' vocal parts, despite its twists and voltage spikes, glide over the orchestration; it also is a measure of how well conductor Dennis Russell Davies steers the Lyric Opera of Chicago's Orchestra and Chorus...Despite the exceptional efforts of the Davis cousins to create a digestible work, listening to Amistad is nevertheless a demanding proposition. This isn't background music or a soundtrack for the commute. Even though its two acts clock in just seconds over the two-hour mark, it takes several sessions to hear the opera fluently, to understand the entwined relationship between score and libretto, and to fully appreciate how the work uses this unique episode in the sordid legacy of slavery to reflect the contradictions of the American ethos. Too often, justice hangs on a technicality in the US; in this regard, it is useful to remember that the decision that freed the Africans was rendered by basically the same Supreme Court that handed down the Dred Scott decision, which did not require the chasing of escaped slaves, just their return to bondage. It is the apposition of this flawed enlightenment with the caprice of the Trickster and the wisdom of the Goddess that is at the core of what is visionary about Amistad. In his notes to Lady of the Mirrors, Anthony Davis stated that he thought of his music "in terms of an imaginative world separate from the all too real world yet complete and vital within itself." With his historical operas, he has brought the two worlds together; they tenaciously co-exist on Amistad." - Bill Shoemaker, Point of Departure



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Works Details

>Davis, Anthony : Amistad, opera in 2 acts
  • Performers: Kevin Kees (Voice); E. Cadet (Voice); Stephen West (Voice); William Stuckey (Voice); Anisha McFarland (Voice); Kenne Anders (Voice); Richard Markley (Tenor); Michael Hill (Voice); Paul Grizzell (Bass); Philip Kraus (Marimba); Tony Drake (Voice); Gerald Burns (Voice); David Brewer (Voice); Danny Milon (Voice); Misha Royzen (Voice); LeVon Campbell (Voice); Kim Jones (Voice); Andrew Funk (Voice); John Daniecki (Tenor); Mark Doss (Bass); Patrick Blackwell (Voice); Mark Baker (Voice); Timothy Blevins (Voice); Wilbur Pauley (Bass); Brad Cresswell (Tenor); Bruce Hall (Voice); Kevin Maynor (Bass); Florence Quivar (Voice); Gregory Johnson (Voice); Thomas Young (Voice); William Watson (Voice); Eugene Perry (Baritone)
  • Conductor: Dennis Davies
  • Ensemble: Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra
  • Notes: Lyric Opera of Chicago (12/17/1997/12/20/1997)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 12 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Studio/Live: Live