Emmett Till, an exciting profoundly moving new opera by composer Mary Watkins and librettist Clare Coss premieres in concert performance on March 23-24, 2022, John Jay College Gerald W Lynch Theater, NYC, in association with John Jay College, Opera Noire International, and The Harlem Chamber Players.
“The Emmett Till opera – a beautiful powerful telling of the murder of 14-year old Emmett Till in 1955. Predicting big things for this production, written and performed exquisitely.”
– Carol Jenkins, Emmy-award journalist, host of “Black America”
“I am certain that this new opera on the ‘too short’ life of Emmett Till will assist a new generation of those unfamiliar with this tragic story to understand his legacy. No doubt, more clarity to his plight will be brought to those of us who think we know this story by heart. I wish you and everyone involved a successful and soul-satisfying experience.”
– Jessye Norman
“The Emmett Till opera’s potential for emotional stupefaction strikes me as exceedingly rare. It can be unique in the American opera repertoire- an interracial Gothic with a black protagonist, the whole experience evocative of Boris Godunov.”
– David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize Author, W.E.B. Du Bois I & II
“The score was very good; every singer was impressive; and it begged for a staged production with orchestra. You couldn’t experience the event and not pray for it to be fully realized.”
– John Morning, Board of Directors of Lincoln Center and Henry Street Settlement;
Founding Chair of International Print Center NY
Clare Coss, Project Director & Librettist
Clare Coss is pleased to introduce the splendid artistic team for Emmett Till.
Mary Watkins, Composer
Mary D Watkins is a composer, arranger, and performer. Emmett Till is her third opera, in addition to Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story, and Queen Clara (Clara Barton). She has written for symphony orchestras, chamber and jazz ensembles. www.MaryDWatkins.com
Tania León, Conductor
is a composer, conductor, educator and advisor to arts organizations. In 2021, her orchestral work Stride, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music. www.tanialeon.com
Malcolm Merriweather, Choral Director and baritone
is music director of New York City’s The Dessoff Choirs, known for performance of choral works from the pre-Baroque era through the 21st century. He is Artistic Director of the Bocelli Foundation’s “Voices of Haiti,” a 60 member children’s choir in Port-au-Prince.
Robert A Mack, Opera Noire International
tenor, is the founder and artistic director of Opera Noire International, a performing arts company and networking organization. His artistic career has taken him from the Metropolitan Opera to international stages. www.operanoireinternational.com
Liz Player, The Harlem Chamber Players
clarinetist, founder, executive and artistic director of The Harlem Chamber Players, a diverse collective of professional musicians dedicated to bringing live classical music to the Harlem community and beyond.
Andrew D Sotomayor, Associate Producer
is a composer, lyricist, conductor, music director, arranger, pianist, arts educator. From composer to music supervisor, his work on musicals has taken him on tours across the U.S. www.andrewdsotomayer.com
In 1955 fourteen year old African-American Chicago youth, Emmett Till, was tortured and murdered for allegedly wolf-whistling at a white woman in the Mississippi Delta. The killers were declared “Not Guilty.” His mother, Mamie Till, demanded an open casket so all the world could help her tell the story. Her courageous action galvanized the civil rights movement. The libretto weaves the horrific murder of Emmett Till with Mamie Till’s transformation from private to activist citizen, Uncle Mose Wright’s bold decision to break the Delta code and testify at the trial, and white teacher Roanne Taylor’s journey from silence to responsibility.
The Emmett Till score calls for eight soloists, eight Black Chorus, eight White Chorus. Liz Player, Artistic Director of the Harlem Chamber Players, will assemble the 24 instrument orchestra.