“Fire Shut Up in My Bones” by Terence Blanchard, the inaugural holder of the Kenny Burrell Chair in Jazz Studies at UCLA, will be the first opera by an African American composer to be staged by the Metropolitan Opera in its 136-year history.
Blanchard’s opera is based on a memoir by Charles Blow, an opinion columnist for The New York Times, with a libretto by the writer and director Kasi Lemmons. The show debuted in St. Louis this summer.
“Vocal lines flow from lyrical wistfulness to snappy declamations; dense big-band sonorities in the orchestra segue into lighter passages backed by a jazz rhythm section,” Anthony Tommasini wrote in his review in The New York Times. “And there are rousing evocations of gospel choruses at church, blues and, during a fraternity party, a rhythmic chorus of spoken words, finger snapping and dance steps.”
Blanchard, a six-time Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter, composer and music educator who in 2019 received an Oscar nomination for best original score for Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” joined the faculty of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music this summer.