Did you know that NEMPAC’s performing arts center has its own opera company? That’s right! NEMPAC Opera is North End Music & Performing Arts Center’s critically-acclaimed opera company that opens doors for composers, artists, and audience members by producing creative works that are global in scope.

  1. NEMPAC Opera represents composers of diverse backgrounds and identities to elevate their contributions to an art form that too often erases the history of their works.
  2. NEMPAC Opera creates opportunity for the next generation of opera singers to launch their careers, bridging the experience gap between recent college graduates and professional artists.
  3. NEMPAC Opera tells stories that represent the communities and cultures of Boston, ensuring this art form is approachable and relevant to all audience members.

We couldn’t be more excited to invite you and yours to a virtual streaming of Juneteenth: Opera in the Key of Freedom on June 19, 2021, at 12:30 p.m. ET. Fueled by our belief in affordable, accessible opera for all Bostonians, we are offering the public free admission to NEMPAC Opera’s 10th season. Reserve your family’s complimentary tickets today by registering online.

“Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to the last group of enslaved peoples in Texas, marking a full end to slavery in the United States,” says Alexandra Dietrich, artistic director of NEMPAC Opera. “As a Puerto Rican American who grew up in Maine, my knowledge of Juneteenth was lacking until a few years ago. The more I read about the holiday and the history as an adult, the more I understood how narrow the narrative I had been taught in school truly was. Juneteenth: Opera in the Key of Freedom aims to play a part in undoing this narrow narrative by 1) fostering an understanding that slavery didn’t end with the Emancipation Proclamation or the Civil War and 2) underscoring how many more complexities there are to healing the lasting effects of the violent trauma of slavery in America’s history.”

Juneteenth: Opera in the Key of Freedom will feature classical and jazz soundscapes by William Grant Still, Scott Joplin, and the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. The streaming event will also feature the world-premiere of Mason Bynes’ “If Singing is Free,” a piece commissioned by NEMPAC to acknowledge the life of Elijah McClain and all the named and unnamed Black lives stolen by police brutality and systemic racism.

 “I want our community to experience a history of music that stretches back to Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a composer whose fame and accomplishments inspired composers in his lifetime like Mozart to Scott Joplin who truly crafted one of the first sounds that we call American: Ragtime to William Grant Still, who with his wife Verna Arvey as his librettist, added his lush melodic lines and infused classical and jazz soundscapes together to Mason Bynes, who is pushing the boundaries of classical music today in Boston,” says Dietrich. “The focus of the material chosen is to uplift joy and hope for the future with an understanding that the traumas from slavery in our country extend into today.”

Here at NEMPAC Opera, we’re proud to have hired the following instrumentalists and singers for this 10th anniversary production:

  • Veena Akama-Makia, Mezzo-Soprano
  • RaShaun Campbell, Baritone
  • Kay Patterson, Soprano
  • Fred VanNess, Jr., Tenor
  • Adrienne Baker, Flute
  • Julia Carey, Piano
  • Thomas Cooper, Violin
  • Freya Liu, Violin
  • Kevonna Shuford, Viola
  • Marshunda Smith, Cello

Juneteenth: Opera in the Key of Freedom is another example of how we’ve pivoted our performance season to continue to provide work to artists amid the pandemic. In addition to supporting instrumentalists and singers who are dealing with COVID-related venue closures, this 10th anniversary production will sustain the tradition of live performance. On that note, Juneteenth: Opera in the Key of Freedom will be filmed live at Boston’s Black Heritage Trail, instead of being produced in a sound booth.

“This piece being in a virtual format will allow NEMPAC Opera to reach an audience that is not yet able to be together for live performances due to COVID-19, reach those beyond the reach of Boston, and also, reach students in the greater-Boston area who may not have seen themselves reflected in music in this way before,” says Dietrich. “I also hope that area teachers will be able to use this performance for cross-curriculum study on Boston’s Abolitionist history, civil rights courses, and the history of music with a higher representation from the Black diaspora of composers. By having sponsorship and grants that allow us to make this streaming event free to all, we break down a socio-economic barrier that often keeps many from being able to attend a live performance. The production will evoke the struggle that equality and freedom entails, tell the story of the many chapters in this American story, and unite artists and audience members in celebration of Juneteenth.”

Are you and your loved ones ready to go to the opera (virtually!)? Join us for NEMPAC Opera’s 10th season, Juneteenth: Opera in the Key of Freedom, on June 19, 2021, at 12:30 p.m. ET by reserving your complimentary ticket today.