UPDATE: The winner is…bn100!
Going down the rabbit hole is what we authors call picking up a thread of research that takes us away from our intended purpose. My latest is African-American opera. What got me started was my quest to track down a modern adaptation of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. I learned of an African-American version where James Brown’s first gold record is the gold stolen in the opera. Looking for information on that performance has taken me down many paths in my latest rabbit hole. Before my quest, I’d have had to admit my knowledge of opera depicting aspects of African-American life was limited to the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and Scott Joplin’s Tremonisha. I soon became lost in the wonderful facts I discovered about old and new works. And truth be told, I loved being lost.
My rabbit hole was really a gold mine. I struck a rich vein every time I began a new internet search. I’ve learned about modern works like Tulani and Anthony Davis’ X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X that premiered at the American Music Theater Festival in 1985. Last year, the Seattle Opera performed Daniel Schnyder and Bridgette A. Wimberly’s Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, a daring piece that incorporated jazz and opera.
This month I learned about 1949’s Troubled Island by composer William Grant Still. You can learn more about the piece here…
In 1936, Still began the opera set in Haiti’s slave rebellion. He asked poet Langston Hughes to write the libretto. Hughes had collaborated with African American composer James P. Johnson to write a blues opera called De Organizer. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union sponsored performances of the work in 1940. In 1937, Hughes moved to Spain to correspond on the Spanish Civil War. Still’s wife, Verna Arvey, a librettist in her own right, finished Troubled Island‘s libretto. Completed in 1939, it took ten more years before the work was performed by the New York City Opera. This made Troubled Island the first African-American grand opera to be produced by a major opera company.
I was drawn to learn more about William Grant Still, the music of Langston Hughes, Verna Arvey, James P. Johnson, famous sponsors of work by African-American artists. Can you see why research is an underground rabbit warren from which I might have never returned to the story that initiated the search in the first place? I plugged up my ears against the siren call of all these facts and made my way back to the surface. I’ve tucked the information away for another time and other stories.
I’ve yet to find the James-Brown-gold-record version of Das Rheingold but I haven’t given up. If you come across it or any information about it, please let me know. But beware lest you fall into a rabbit hole research trap of your own.
For a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, share in the comments if you have a favorite opera or if opera is something you avoid at all costs.
One Breath Away
Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.
Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman is his mate foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.
Hope ignites along with lust until the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…
Excerpt from One Breath Away
He removed his hat and extended his hand in greeting. “At your service, Queen.”
She donned her hat and examined him with that regal air.
“Miss Payne, if you please. You may call me Queen after the nuptials.” She finished tying her hat’s long ribbons beneath her chin. “Although, even then, I’d prefer Mrs. King.”
“You don’t say?” He chuckled, taking her measure from head to foot. “Well, Miss Payne it is…for now.”
She filled her face with a frown. “I don’t appreciate being examined like some newly purchased cow, Mr. King.”
He pulled back. Amusement wrestled with annoyance. “I’m making sure you measure up, Miss Payne.”
“Pray to what criteria? I doubt there’s a standard for marriages of convenience.” She shoved her valise against his chest then crossed her arms, causing her lovely bosom to swell.
He inhaled against the pull of desire throbbing in his privates. “The same criteria as you I suspect: my own self-worth and what I deserve.” He dropped the bag at her feet. “So, by that token, I don’t appreciate being treated like some fetch-and-carry boy.”
She lowered her gaze. But for the set of her jaw he’d have taken the gesture for apology.
He leaned forward and whispered, “If you ask me nicely, I’d gladly carry your bag.”
“A gentleman wouldn’t need to be asked.” Her tone dripped with disdain. “A gentleman would simply take it.”
“I do many things, Miss Payne.” He pushed up the brim of his hat and grinned, fired up by the hazel flame sparking in her eyes. “Pretending to be a gentleman doesn’t number among them.”
Buy links: Amazon – https://amzn.to/2VT5u0F