Theater luminary Robert O’Hara makes his Met debut directing the new production, becoming the second Black director in Met history
Baritone Will Liverman stars in the title role of the opera, which will be conducted by Kazem Abdullah
New York, NY (September 16, 2021)—The Metropolitan Opera announced today that Anthony Davis’s X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X will have its company premiere on November 3, 2023, making it the second opera by a Black composer in Met history, after Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Playwright and director Robert O’Hara, who received a Tony Award nomination for his direction of Slave Play in 2020, creates the new production, which stars baritone Will Liverman in the title role. The Met presentation is a co-production with Michigan Opera Theatre, where the staging is originating, Opera Omaha, and the Seattle Opera. The production will premiere in Detroit in May 2022, followed by performances in Omaha in October.
The opera, with a libretto by the esteemed playwright Thulani Davis, had its world premiere at New York City Opera in 1986. Anthony Davis, who won a 2020 Pulitzer Prize for his opera The Central Park Five, will be revisiting X for the new production, tightening a few scenes, which will allow the production to run with just one intermission. At the Met, it will be conducted by Kazem Abdullah. Rising soprano Leah Hawkins stars opposite Liverman in dual roles, in the role of Louise and as Malcolm’s wife, Betty Shabazz.
“I look forward with great excitement to the production of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X at the Metropolitan Opera,” said Anthony Davis. “It has been 35 years since the premiere of X, and I am eager to work with the extraordinary director Robert O’Hara on this new production that will feature a new generation of artists. Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik el Shabazz) is an even more relevant figure today. 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.”
In describing his vision for the production, O’Hara said, “We are working in collusion with the past, present, and Afro-futurism in imagining with a child-like wonder a prophet in search of a future for our people where the final gunshot is not the end of a legend but the beginning of a liberation.”
O’Hara’s creative team features Tony Award-winning set designer Clint Ramos, costume designer Dede Ayite, lighting designer Alex Jainchill, projection designer Yee Eun Nam, and choreographer Camille A. Brown, who returns to the Met for her third production after The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones (for which her directing made her the first Black director in Met history).
“We are committed to presenting the works of influential Black composers,” said Met General Manager Peter Gelb. “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.”
Liverman is also starring in the leading role of Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Blanchard’s opera that opens the upcoming Met season on September 27.
The production of X will also be featured as part of the Met’s Live in HD series of cinema transmissions and broadcast on Sirius XM and over the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.