It took 138 years for the Metropolitan Opera to present its first work by a Black composer: Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” which opens its season on Sept. 27.
But the second will arrive in just two years, the company announced on Thursday. Anthony Davis’s “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X,” which premiered in its full version at New York City Opera in 1986, will be given a new production by the Met in fall 2023.
“We are committed to presenting the works of influential Black composers,” Peter Gelb, the company’s general manager, said in a statement. “It’s high time that the work of Anthony Davis be heard and seen on the stage of the Met. This is an opera of great power and majesty.”
Since its premiere, “X” has received only one full revival, at Oakland Opera Theater, in 2006. The new production, which will premiere at Michigan Opera Theater in May, will be directed by Robert O’Hara (“Slave Play”) and star the baritone Will Liverman, who is singing the lead role in “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.” Kazem Abdullah will conduct.
Since “X,” which has a libretto by Thulani Davis, Anthony Davis has written several more operas, including “Amistad” (1997) and “The Central Park Five,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2020. For the new production of “X,” he will be revising and tightening the score, which infuses a modernist musical language with the rhythms and textures of swing and free jazz; it will now run with a single intermission, instead of two.
“Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz) is an even more relevant figure today,” Davis said in a statement. “His vision is as prescient today as it was in 1986. He is an inspiration for Black Lives Matter and the movement for social justice. As a composer, I am thrilled to help create ‘X’ as an opera for today that speaks to the future as well as the past.”