Emmett Till, the Opera

Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till

“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

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


Damien Sneed, Choral Director


Robert A Mack, Opera Noire International


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

Emmett Till

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 23 instrument orchestra.