Anthony Davis: Amistad

Opera in Two Acts
Music by Anthony Davis
Libretto by Thulani Davis
(in order of vocal appearance)
The Trickster God   Thomas Young
Navigator    Mark Baker
Don Pedro    Wilbur Pauley
Kinnah     David Lee Brewer
Grabeau    Timothy Robert Blevins  
Burnah     Patrick Blackwell
Margru     Kimberly Jones
Bahia     Anisha M. McFarland
Kaleh     E. Mani Cadet
Cinque     Mark S. Doss  
American Lieutenant   Bruce Hall
Antonio   Eugene Perry
Reporters    Brad Cresswell, William Andrew Stuckey, Andrew Funk, Kevin
Kees, Misha Royzen, Paul Grizzell
Phrenologist    Richard Markley
Abolitionist Tappan   John Daniecki
John Quincy Adams   Stephen West
Southern Senator   Philip Kraus
The Spaniard (Calderon de la Barca) Wilbur Pauley
President Martin Van Buren  William Watson
Judge     Bruce Hall
Goddess of the Waters  Florence Quivar
Cook     Kevin Maynor
Captives: Kenne Anders, Gerard Burns, LeVon Campbell, Tony Drake, Michael Hill, 
Gregory Johnson, Danny Milon
Sailors and Guards: Roman Babul, Tom Lentz, Kurt Merrill, Leslie Oswald, Tom Tefft

Orchestra and Chorus of Lyric Opera of Chicago
Conductor    Dennis Russell Davies
Stage Director    George C. Wolfe
Set Designer    Riccardo Hernandez
Costume Designer   Toni-Leslie James
Lighting Designer   Paul Gallo
Chorus Master    Donald Palumbo
Choreographer    Hope Clarke
Fight Director    Nicolas Sandys
Puppet Designers   Barbara Pollitt, Matthew Owens
Wig and Makeup Designer  Stan Dufford
Assistant Stage Director  Thor Steingraber
Stage Manager   John W. Coleman
Associate Lighting Designer  Christine Binder
Assistant Chorus Master  Elizabeth Buccheri
Musical Preparation   William C. Billingham, Elizabeth Buccheri, Philip Morehead
Prompter    Timothy Shaindlin
Text Adaptation for Projection Francis Rizzo
English Diction Coach  Gillian Lane-Plescia
DISC ONE  61:51
1. Overture  3:12
Scene 1: “The Unknown Is My Realm”
2. Aria: “The unknown is my realm” (Trickster)         7:11
Scene 2: “Cloth for the Dead”
3. Duet: “We may yet get away” (Navigator, Don Pedro); 
Duet (Trickster, Cinque with Chorus) 4:25
4. “Lord, you cannot see” (Cinque)  1:04 
5. “It’s an English word, an Englishman’s word” (Trickster)   2:52    
6. Recitative: “Land! We’ve hit land!” (Navigator)  1:37
7. “Ahoy there. Who are you?” (American Lieutenant) 2:12 
8. “Not just Nduo. Not just a slave” (Cinque) 1:53
9. “We, at last, have come to naught.” (Cinque, Chorus) 3:10
10. Recitative: “He’s mad too” (American Lieutenant, Don Pedro) 1:02
11. “I believe, sir. You should be glad for your life” (American Lieutenant) 1:17
12. Aria: “And me, am I save’?” (Antonio)  :59
Scene 3:  “Savages of Legend”
13. Parade I :50
14. “So these are the savages” (Sextet of Reporters)   3:23                       
15. Aria: “They yap and snap” (Trickster)
“Are they going to kill us?” (Chorus)  1:41
Scene 4:  “Ankle and Wrist”
16. Aria: “They wanted a girl” (Margru)   4:59          
17. “Chief, what will become of us?” (Grabeau) :57      
18. Aria: “The past is a fading daylight” (Cinque, Chorus)   4:14      
19. Parade II :31
20. “The base of his brain” (Phrenologist, Reporters);   
Chorus: “Are they going to kill us?” (Captives) 2:04
Scene 5:  “The Greatest Liberty”
21. “Deep in the festering hold” (Chorus)    2:23     
22. “We are grateful, sir” (Abolitionist Tappan)  3:06        
23. “This is where the case lies” (Adams)  1:49
24. Aria: “The greatest liberty” (Adams)          5:00
DISC TWO  59:01
Scene 1:  “Posers, Dandies, Hacks”
1. Sextet: “It’s quite a show” (Reporters)     2:40
Scene 2:  “What the Navigator Saw”
2. Aria: “The moonlight died” (Navigator)   4:31
Scene 3:  “A Foreign Appeal”
3. “Mr. President” (Southern Senator, the President, Calderon de la Barca)      2:29  
Scene 4:  “What Antonio Saw”
4. Aria: “That day each get one banana” (Antonio)  3:23
5. “I see we’re in a spot” (Tappan)     :30
Scene 5:  “They Saw a God”
6. Sextet: “We thought they came for salt” (Bahia, Kinnah, Grabeau, Burnah, Kaleh, Margru, Cinque with
the Trickster and Judge)        5:03
7. Aria: “In this white village” (Cinque) 2:19
8. Recitative: “They were forced” (Adams)  :16
Scene 6: “Skin of Clouds”
9. Aria: “They come as if from the heavens” (Goddess of the
Waters)              9:58
Scene 7: “Freed by Lord and Chief”
10. “How did you come to kill?” (Judge)     1:57
11. “Nansi, Brer Nansi” (Chorus, Trickster, Cinque)   3:06       
12. “C’mon, now the party’s over” (Cook)    1:00
13. Recitative: “These fools don’ b’lieve you” (Antonio) 1:01
14. “I’m not like you” (Antonio)         1:44
15. Orchestral introduction to Scene 8: “As the Crew Sleeps”  1:11
Scene 8: “The Rising”
16. Aria: “It’s time to take the helm” (Trickster)   2:00           
17. “The Rebellion”      1:07
18. Aria: “He sleeps at his master’s feet.” (Cinque)   1:44
Scene 9: “Bird on the Wing”
19. Aria: “To own one’s life, one’s very breath” (Adams)                 4:50
20. “This is a great day” (Tappan)         :28
21. Duet: “Hush now, Translator” (Trickster, Cinque) 5:09
22. “The courts say you are free” (Margru, Reporters)         1:07    
23. “The meaning is clear” (Chorus)               1:28
The Dancer of All Dancers: Anthony Davis and Amistad
The retelling of the story of the slave ship Amistad, the staging ground for an 1839 slave revolt that
exercised international consequences during its era, was bound to be controversial even in the late 1990s,
given the persistent reluctance of the American national imagination to come to terms with the full
implications of slavery. As the historian Herbert Aptheker showed in the 1940s, in both the United States
and in the Caribbean, slave revolts were frequent, contrary to the accepted wisdom of the period that
tended to erase the phenomenon as inconsistent with the professed nature of enslaved Africans as docile
and accepting of their supposedly biblically- ordained fate. Aptheker and generations of subsequent
historians revised this conventional wisdom to show that the theory of the docile African was aimed not at
history, but at the present, designed to influence the now ostensibly free descendants of these slaves, who
were in the process of searching for justice. To keep information regarding precedent for resistance was a
prime goal of this erasure of history.
Jointly commissioned by Lyric Opera of Chicago and the American Music Theatre Festival of Philadelphia,
the world premiere of Amistad in Chicago on November 29, 1997 (which I attended) was something of a
media event, with feature segments on National Public Radio’s widely heard “Morning Edition with Bob
Edwards” and Charles Osgood’s “CBS Sunday Morning.” A two-hour-long opera in two acts with full
orchestra, double chorus, and an integrated jazz ensemble with trap drums that drove its motoric rhythmic
flow, the work broke any number of molds. Amistad was resolutely postmodernist, not only in its
compositional idiom, but also in the manner of its production. The African-American director of Amistad,
George C. Wolfe, was best known for his successful Broadway productions, including Jelly’s Last Jam,
about the life of the early jazz composer Jelly Roll Morton; Tony Kushner’s Angels in America; and the
even more spectacularly successful extravaganza Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk. 
It was while the latter production was in full swing that Wolfe, Anthony Davis, Davis’s cousin, the widely
read novelist, poet and opinion columnist Thulani Davis, and the diversely talented conductor and pianist
Dennis Russell Davies, began the final stages of bringing Davis’s Amistad to fruition. This was hardly
Davis’s first foray into the world of opera, however. His 1986 opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X
hit the opera world with the force of a hurricane, introducing an entirely new set of issues and
methodologies. Certainly the African-American experience had been engaged in the opera medium before,
from composers such as Louis Gruenberg and Paul Bowles to the African-American composers Lawrence
Freeman and the widely acknowledged dean of black composers, William Grant Still. However, it is fair to
say that these earlier works have not exercised the lasting impact of X, particularly on African- Americans. 
For many concertgoers, according to contemporary newspaper accounts, X represented a watershed event,
the transformation of the medium of opera to embrace the richness and complexity of black history and
culture. From a New York Times article published on the occasion of the work’s New York premiere, we
learn that among the throngs in attendance was the young filmmaker Spike Lee, the auteur of his own epic
of Malcolm’s life in 1992. Summing up the reception among many African-Americans, one member of the
audience simply told the Times, “I just think that I should be here, it’s important.” 

Bringing a new class of operagoers to the stage, however, was only part of the estimable service that X
performed. The work itself combined contemporary classical compositional practice with a panoply of
influences that had been heretofore deemed as somehow outside the purview of American opera, including
a decided turn to the treatment of contemporary political issues, a turn that X has been widely credited as
sparking. Subsequent Davis operas, notably his third, the chamber opera Tania (1992), continued in this
direction. This opera’s frank and audacious, partially surrealist treatment of the history surrounding Patty
Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army presaged by a number of years the serious engagement by the
contemporary polity with issues of domestic terrorism. 
However, the most widely touted of these influences was the direct inclusion of jazz elements. At the time X
was written, its composer was in the process of becoming widely known as one of the finest improvisers
currently performing. Born in 1951 in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of the innovative academic literary
critic Charles T. Davis, by the mid-1970s Anthony Davis had become part of the New York experimental
improvised music scene. A virtuoso pianist, his approach to the instrument, which is now discussed in many
standard reference texts on jazz and improvised music, drew not only upon traditional and experimental
African-American musical sources, but also upon the Javanese gamelan, American Minimalism, and the
European and American avant-garde. 
Prior to the composition of X, Davis had been working intensively on incorporating improvisation into
larger-scale formal conceits. Performing Davis’s early, hybrid chamber music works required not only
virtuoso technique and an ability to rapidly code-switch between different musical idioms, but also a
bifurcated concentration that obliged performers to consider the impact of their improvisations upon the
overall form of the work they were operating within. In other words, a Davis chamber work required its
performers to think like composers. 
Many of these techniques found their way into X and his subsequent operas, and it was these diverse
sources that have informed all of Davis’s subsequent music, which ranges from solo piano to chamber and
orchestral works. By including improvisation as a central constituent element of the work, X foreshortened
the distance between art and life. By embodying jazz within its corpus, and not merely for purposes of
depiction, parody, satire, or heavy-handed political commentary, X expressed the diversity of the American
In many ways, Amistad revisits aspects of X and Tania, but in a form that exhibits maximum focus and a
tightened compositional practice. Practically absent are the long improvisations that marked X, replaced by
a single-mindedness that affirms the centrality of the composer even as the opera itself expresses the multi-
voiced nature of postmodernity. A decade after X, and well into the third decade of what David Harvey
called “the postmodern condition,” Amistad’s compositional style seems now to eschew the conventional
postmodern pastiche that its composer arguably helped introduce to American opera. Rather than a now
conventional postmodernism, Amistad seems to pursue a dogged decolonization of art music (to use
composer Michael Dessen’s memorable phrase). The musical language is marked by constant motion and
kaleidoscopic permutation of the same elements, including a four-note ending cadence that appears
constantly, but in ever-shifting guises. The musical structure seems to refuse any notion of rest, thereby
mirroring the uncertainty of its subjects, who are, in the last analysis, men without a country, free though
they eventually prove to be under the laws of a young United States, the majority of whose black inhabitants
have no such freedom.

As a performer, Davis’s ear for greatness in performance is astute, and he tends to return to the same
figures in an active approach to casting. The Trickster figure, so eloquently theorized by Davis’s longtime
friend and his father’s greatest student, Henry Louis Gates, in his classic of African-American literary
criticism, The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism, becomes embodied in
the multiple vocal persona of the great tenor Thomas Young, whose tonal accuracy and full range of
expression endeared him to Elliott Carter. In X, Young performs a dual role, which in the story by Thulani
Davis and Christopher Davis (Anthony Davis’s brother), embodies the double-facedness (what was once
called “Janus-like”) of the Yoruba trickster god Esu-Elegba: “Street,” the blustering yet melancholy hustler
who introduces the young Malcolm to the black underground’s version of an endless Walpurgisnacht, and
the radical evangelist Elijah Muhammad, draft resister and founder of the Nation of Islam. 
Born Elijah Poole in 1897, Muhammad credited the mysterious W.D. Fard’s 1930s teachings on the vision
of Ezekiel’s wheel as foundational to the Nation’s belief in the “Mother Plane,” a technologically advanced
artificial planet whose capabilities are eventually deployed in an Armageddon that ensures the ultimate
triumph of the black race over its enemies. I want to highlight here the connection between this science-
fiction trope and the theme of Davis’s second opera, the space-fiction drama Under the Double Moon
(1989), with a libretto by Deborah Atherton about telepathic miscegenation on the mythical planet Undine.
As with all of Davis’s operatic work, this one raises the issue of whether the realities of operatic reception in
the West could ever be subsumed under the narrative of radical, populist, post-agrarian high art.
In Amistad, Young again takes on the Trickster’s role, this time by combining Esu-Elegba with the image of
the Greek blind “seer” Teiresias. Attending opening night, I was struck by Young’s unique ability to
seemingly sing impossibly difficult passages that were obviously written expressly for him while climbing
through the constructed riggings of an onstage ship.
Certainly, the exigencies of opera seem to require any such moments of depiction. In Act One, Scene 4
(“Ankle and Wrist”) the blues and the sorrow-song are used to underscore the horrors of captivity. Or, in
another section of Act One, Scene 5, Quaker-like hymnals provide an illusion of whistling in the dark:
Deep in the festering hold 
thy father lies,  
of his bones  
New England pews are made, 
those are altar lights 
that were his eyes.  
Moments of satire abound in Amistad, as when the slave Cinque is paraded before a group of white
phrenologists in early pursuit of the pseudoscience of eugenics (Act Two, Scene 4), and a depiction of
media obsession with the magnification of trivia and the practice of misdirection that seems to redound to
our own day:

Phrenologist examines Cinque, measuring his head in close detail, then examining other 
parts of his body.  Phrenologist emerges and talks to the Reporters.  
Phrenologist      Reporters  
(Reading notes)      (Taking notes) 
The base of his brain     Base of his brain 
is smaller than other parts     What parts? 
Parts of the brain.     And so? 
Lower-animal propensities   Ah, ha! 
do not dominate.     What’s that? 
He’s not that bad.     Oh?   (disappointed) 
The cerebral organization   Cerebral organization 
is superior       Superior?   
      You don’t mean that. 
to most Negroes here      Oh good! 
As Thulani Davis observed, this scene was meant to evoke a certain empathy, letting the audience “see how
the citizens of a town saw these exotic beings who were brought through the town, and allows the audience
also to see how these Africans may have perceived these people who were gawking at them and pointing
and screaming.”
For the most part, however, the sound world of Amistad is Davis’s own, internally consistent, palindromic,
and driven by the Javanese-like odd and continually shifting meters that proved so influential on later
generations of improvisers, such as Steve Coleman and Vijay Iyer.
An important part of every Davis opera involves a hard, socially committed look at race. Indeed, the
contemporaneous reception of Amistad emphasized (either positively or negatively) the connection with
contemporary American dislocations of race. For the African-American community of Chicago (in which I
was born and raised) the reception of Amistad recalled New York’s reception of X—that is, a story
suppressed and waiting to be told, albeit in a medium still somewhat distanced from the center of black
culture. As the CBS show noted, “The opening of the opera inspired Amistad-related events all over
One new operagoer happened to be a member of the “Amistad Committee,” a group that took its name
from the original 1839 committee of citizens, including the abolitionist Lewis Tappan, who banded together
for the defense of Cinque and his comrades. As he put it, “I was taught African-American history in a
fashion that I’ve labeled the peanut butter way of teaching history. I was taught early on that George
Washington Carver worked with peanuts, had peanut oil and peanut butter. And that finished my education
of the contributions that the abolitionists and the African-Americans made to U.S. history.” In this new
operagoer’s view, the Davis work made it clear that “we have the responsibility of bringing this story to our
young people to inspire them, to show what can happen when black and white come together in common
Of course, not everyone saw it quite that way. One critic expressed a frequently encountered view, to the
effect that “The premiere of Amistad was a politically correct event; all the performances were sold out in
advance, over 50 critics from around the world traveled to pay their respects.” Another objected to what he
saw as the demonization of whites, calling the work “a cardboard-cutout morality sermon” that failed to
show “the United States behaving with wisdom and compassion toward the helpless and downtrodden.” If
nothing else, this view indicates that its writer did not manage to stay till the end of the opera to hear one of
the most moving passages in the entire work, when the verdict freeing the Amistad’s captives, rendered by a
bass-baritone playing the American icon John Quincy Adams, and backed by dramatic, stentorian brass
chords in the finest Coplandian tradition, clearly shows precisely that:
Here our laws permit bondage,  
even beastly vengeance,  
within our shores.  
But now with men taken hostage,  
we seek to deny even nature’s law.  
This cannot stand in our land. 
We cannot chase slaves  
for other slaving men.  
And we must not make  
slaves of free men.  
Such a moral outrage  
puts us all in bondage. 
This socially committed view of music is common to African-American music—a commitment to moving
past an above-the-fray individualism that eschews contact with the realities of the Afrodiasporic political,
economic, and social situation. As with the products of black classical composers more generally, Davis
combines the classical idiom and its associated art-world tropes with vernacular and contemporary ideals of
social justice. Or, as the Trickster puts it in the very first scene,
What they call tragedy  
I will make my history.  
I will make a story to be told  
of genius born of necessity, . . .
In the end, it is certain that one attraction that the Amistad story held for the composer and librettist was the
optimistic perception that America, despite all its faults, continues to be the best hope for a freedom
marked by justice. Davis himself recalls first encountering the story in the Robert Hayden poem Middle
Passage, which vividly depicts the horrors associated with the slaver’s voyage with direct reference to the
Amistad voyage and the heroism of the revolt leader Cinque, but culminating in the final, hopeful passage:
Voyage through death
to life upon these shores.

In a sense, then, with both Hayden and the Davises we have the American Dream, seen from a postcolonial
perspective, the view of the colonized; or, as Thulani Davis put it to an interviewer, “I think coming through
the ’70s into the early ’80s we were looking for stories that showed the—the victory of a kind of justice that
we continue to struggle with in this country. Like: Can anyone get justice in America?” 
In response, the Trickster himself puts it this way, in deciding to make his way in a wild new land at the
close of the opera:
I will take my leave of you, 
evaporate like ether. 
But you have suffered enough,
You must return to Africa. 
I have seen the gods 
of the New World, 
beleaguered and in despair. 
I mean to spark them up a bit 
with wild dance and fanfare. 
They need invention and wit;  
a little color will help. 
I think I will live very well.    
      —George E. Lewis
Composer-performer George E. Lewis is the Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. A
2002 MacArthur Fellow, Lewis is the author of A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American
Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008).

Composer’s Note
Amistad is an opera that was ten years in the making. Thulani Davis and I first discussed the idea of creating
an opera on the Amistad Rebellion in 1986, after the premiere of our opera X: The Life and Times of
Malcolm X. We were drawn to the drama of the story, a successful uprising of captives on a slave ship, and
the implications of the Amistad incident in an understanding of ourselves and the American experience.
Through the Amistad, we could revisit the story of the Middle Passage, the contradictions implicit in the
ethos of America, and also explore the emergence of the African-American as a cultural entity.
The story presented a special musical challenge: I would have to create distinct and separate musical
languages for the divergent cultures represented by the characters in the opera. The challenge would be to
differentiate character with music, yet at the same time maintain musical unity and coherence. The libretto,
as conceived by Thulani, employs a broad spectrum of language from the poetic, metaphoric language of
the Captives to the vulgar exhortations of the Reporters. Similarly, the music reflects this spectrum of
language with the violent speech rhythms of the Reporters and the rhapsodic stones of the Captives in Act
Among the major characters, there are similar contrasts of text-setting and musical idiom. The Trickster,
who begins and ends the opera, moves from a rhythmically syncopated musical line to sudden lyricism. His
emotions and music literally turn on a dime, triggered by his recurring motif in the bass. The Trickster’s
melodies at times are jagged and angular, with an emphasis on rhythm. His music has the most overt jazz
influence; Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk, two formidable musical tricksters, are conjured into his
musical equation, and he is almost always accompanied by a drum set. John Quincy Adams’s music, on the
other hand, features long musical lines that express his belief in the American Ideal of freedom and liberty.
The gamelan-inspired texture framing Adams’s Act One aria is a reflection of the tenuous balance that
Adams and the nation must maintain between slave and free, among belief, vision, and reality.
In my music the ostinato (repeating rhythmic pattern) takes a pivotal role, as recurring motives
denote both character and the physical and psychological environment affecting the characters. I have
already mentioned the rhythmic ostinato associated with the Trickster, and there are other recurring motifs
for the Goddess of the Waters, Antonio, Adams, the Navigator, and Lewis Tappan, the Abolitionist.
Repeating motifs are also employed for the physical and emotional presence of the Ocean and the magical
transformative powers of the Bush. The Reporters are always accompanied by a jagged, swirling “beehive”
motif that modulates and evolves throughout their malevolent discourse, moving from oboes to flutes and
bassoons. The orchestra not only supports the delineation of character in the opera, but propels the story,
recognizing the underlying forces at play in the drama.
In Amistad there are two choruses. One chorus represents the Captives on board the ship and in
jail in Act One; later in Act Two they become slaves in Cuba, working on the docks. The second chorus
represents Americans in all their vulgarity and ambivalence. The choruses interact in two scenes in the
opera. The antiphony of the choruses is literally a collision of worlds. In my choral writing I translate the
repeating rhythmic interplay in the orchestra into musical building-blocks of sections of the chorus. The
chorus, particularly in the eighth scene of Act Two, becomes the drum as its members summon “Esu,” the
Trickster God, in all his manifestations. This contrasts with the monolithic, rhythmic unison of the second
chorus, which berates the slaves. Amistad is my most ambitious work to date, and has given me the
opportunity to expand upon what I have learned from my previous operas (X, Under the Double Moon,
and Tania), as well as the chance to explore new musical areas. Amistad is the product of a wonderful
collaboration with Thulani Davis and George C. Wolfe. With the miraculous support of Lyric Opera of
Chicago, a slave ship arrives on the shores of Lake Michigan. (1997)
Anthony Davis has composed music in a wide range of genres including opera, orchestral, choral, and
chamber music. He has been on the cutting edge of improvised music and jazz for more than three
decades. Mr. Davis has composed five operas. X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, with a libretto by
Thulani Davis, had its world premiere at the New York City Opera in 1986. The recording of the opera
earned a Grammy nomination for music composition. Under the Double Moon, with a libretto by Deborah
Atherton, premiered at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in 1989. Tania, an opera based on the kidnapping
of Patty Hearst with a libretto by Michael John La Chiusa, premiered at the American Music Theater
Festival in 1992 and received its European premiere in Vienna in November, 2003. His fourth opera,
Amistad, premiered at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on November 29, 1997. Wakonda’s Dream, with a
libretto by Yusef Komunyakaa, debuted with Opera Omaha in March 2007. He is also collaborating with
the director Robert Wilson and the writers Alma Guillermoprieto and Charles Koppelman on a new opera
about the Cuban Revolution and with the playwright Allan Havis on a chamber opera entitled Lilith.  He
has two music theater works in development: Shimmer, a music theater work about the McCarthy Era with
Sarah Schulman and Michael Korie; and Tupelo, a music theater work about the life of Elvis Presley,
written with Arnold Weinstein.
He has composed numerous works for orchestra and chamber ensemble commissioned by the San
Francisco Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, St. Luke’s Chamber
Ensemble, Kansas City Symphony, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His other works include
the music for the critically acclaimed Broadway production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America:
Millenium Approaches, Part One, and Part Two, Perestroika.
A graduate of Yale University in 1975, Mr. Davis is currently a professor of music at the University of
California, San Diego. In 2008 he received the “Lift Every Voice” Legacy Award from the National Opera
Association acknowledging his pioneering work in opera. In 2006 Mr. Davis was awarded a fellowship from
the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Mr. Davis has also been honored by the American Academy of
Arts and Letters, the New York Foundation of the Arts, the National Endowment of the Arts, the
Massachusetts Arts Council, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Chamber Music America, Meet-the-
Composer Wallace Fund, the MAP fund with the Rockefeller Foundation, and Opera America. He has
been an artist fellow at the MacDowell Colony and at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy.
Thulani Davis is a journalist, novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. Her most recent book, My
Confederate Kinfolk, is a memoir exploring her mother’s ancestry among former slaves and slaveholders
during and after the Civil War. Her other works include two novels, 1959, and Maker of Saints. She has
written several plays, most recently, Everybody’s Ruby: Story of a Murder in Florida, and two books of
poetry, Playing the Changes and All the Renegade Ghosts Rise, as well as the scripts for the films Paid in
Full (Miramax, 2002) and Maker of Saints (2009). Her work also appears in several award-winning
documentaries shown nationwide on PBS.
As a journalist she has been both a staff writer and senior editor at The Village Voice and has written for an
array of national publications including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times Book Review,
Washington Post Book World, Newsday, and The Nation. 
Davis was the first woman to win a Grammy Award in the liner notes category for “The Atlantic
Recordings” by Aretha Franklin and she wrote the words for another Grammy nominee that year, the
Anthony Davis opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X. She has written the librettos for two other
operas, The E & O Line (Anne LeBaron) and Amistad (Anthony Davis), as well as several other musical
She was educated at Barnard College and New York University. In 2003 she received a Revson Fellowship
on the Future of New York City at Columbia University. In 2007, she was awarded a Newington-Cropsey
Foundation Fellowship at NYU and in 2008 she was named a writing fellow for the Leon Levy Center for
Biography at the City University of New York. She has also been awarded a Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest
Writers Award, a Pew Foundation National Theatre Arts Residency and other fellowships and grants in the
arts. Following the successful premiere of Amistad at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, she was awarded the first
Paul Robeson Cultural Democracy Award from Columbia College in Chicago for her work on that opera
and also became the youngest inductee in the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African
Descent at Chicago State University. Davis is an ordained Buddhist priest, co-founder of the Brooklyn
Buddhist Association, and now leads the Three Refuges Sangha. 
Mark Baker (Navigator) has appeared at Lyric Opera most recently singing Froh in Das Rheingold for the
company’s 2005 Ring cycle. One of America’s leading dramatic tenors, Baker debuted at Lyric during the
1993–94 season’s new production of Wozzeck, portraying the Drum Major. He has recorded that role
under Daniel Barenboim and has sung it at the Metropolitan Opera, as well as in Paris, Berlin, Buenos
Aires, and Spoleto. The Oklahoma-born artist has sung more than twenty roles with the Met, among them
Froh (which he has recorded with the Met orchestra under Levine), Florestan in Fidelio, Erik in Der
fliegende Holländer, Narraboth in Salome, and Tom Buchanan in John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby
(world premiere). Baker has performed with virtually every major North American company, including six
roles at San Francisco Opera, most recently as Siegmund in Die Walküre, Froh, and  Vladimir in Prince
Igor. In Janáček’s Jenůfa he has portrayed both Laca (Santiago, Dallas, Edmonton) and Steva
(Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s company premiere, released on DVD). He has also appeared with leading
Italian, Dutch, and German opera companies.
Grammy Award–winner Mark S. Doss (Cinque) has been featured in several roles with Milan’s Teatro
alla Scala: Jochanaan (Salome); Argante (Rinaldo); Escamillo (Carmen); Brussels’s Théâtre de la Monnaie—
Escamillo; Amonasro (Aida); Oper Frankfurt—the title role in Boito’s Mefistofele; Zaccaria (Nabucco);
Mephistopheles (Faust); Scarpia (Tosca); San Francisco Opera—Escamillo; Thoas (Iphigénie en Tauride);
and Lyric Opera of Chicago—Escamillo; Alidoro (La Cenerentola). Doss left Chicago as a Ryan Opera
Center alumnus on January 20, 1986, and the very next day joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera.
The bass-baritone created the central role of Cinque in Anthony Davis’s Tania at Philadelphia’s American
Music Theater Festival, and performed the title role in the composer’s X: The Life and Times of Malcolm
X with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, having already participated in its New York City Opera world
premiere. Doss is a highly praised guest artist not only with major opera companies, but also with the major
American orchestras, including those of Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
His 1993 Grammy Award is for Handel’s Semele.
The Ryan Opera Center alumna Kimberly Jones (Margru) has performed on Lyric’s mainstage as Xenia
in Boris Godunov, Olga in Fedora, Pedro in Don Quichotte, and Despina in Così Fan Tutte. She appeared
as Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Adele in Die Fledermaus with the Center, at the Grant Park Music Festival.
With Houston Grand Opera, she performed the role of Clara in Porgy and Bess. Concert performances
include Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 at Mandel Hall (University of Chicago), an evening of Vivaldi arias at
Alice Tully Hall, and a radio broadcast of the Dame Myra Hess recital at the Chicago Cultural Center. She
has performed Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with Maestro Bruno Bartoletti (Orchestra della Toscana) as well
as the Philip Glass Symphony No. 5 at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig and Ludwigsburg, Germany, and in
Copenhagen. Last year she made her debut as Fiordiligi in Così under the baton of Maestro Willie
Anthony Waters.
American baritone Eugene Perry’s (Antonio) association with Anthony Davis’s music includes the title
role of X on CD and the world premiere of Under the Double Moon at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. The
Illinois native has made a specialty of contemporary opera, including Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Die
Soldaten and Toshiro Mayuzumi’s Kinkakuji at the New York City Opera; the world premieres of Philip
Glass’s Orphee (American Repertory Theatre Boston); Noa Ain’s The Outcast (Houston Grand Opera);
and most recently Wolfgang Rihm’s Séraphin in Stuttgart. Perry’s other recent engagements include Atlanta
Opera’s Don Giovanni, in which he sang the title role, a portrayal that brought him international attention
in Peter Sellars’s production (available on video.) His varied repertoire also encompasses La Cenerentola
(Opéra de Nice), The Pearl Fishers (The Washington Opera), and Madama Butterfly (NYCO). He has
recorded John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, which he sang in the Brussels world premiere and later
in Lyons, Vienna, San Francisco, and Brooklyn.
The renowned American mezzo-soprano Florence Quivar (Goddess of the Waters) is a regular guest of
the world’s leading opera companies, orchestras, and festivals. Quivar has appeared frequently at the
Metropolitan Opera, and performed the Verdi Requiem during a Met tour to Japan. Her varied Met
repertoire of nearly 15 roles includes Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera and Mother Marie in Dialogues of the
Carmelites, both of which she sang on PBS telecasts. A wide range of lyric and dramatic mezzo roles has
brought her to major European houses (Covent Garden, Hamburg, Munich, Bologna, the Salzburg
Festival), and important American theaters as well. The Philadelphia native has captivated critics and
audiences worldwide in recital and in a vast repertoire with orchestra, performing under every significant
conductor of our time. Following Amistad, Quivar sang Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the Berlin
Philharmonic under James Levine; reprised her celebrated interpretation of the solo alto part of Mahler’s
Symphony No. 3 with the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa (both in Boston and on a European tour);
and returned to the San Francisco Symphony for Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 under Michael Tilson
Thomas. Quivar’s extensive discography includes a solo album of spirituals, Luisa Miller and Oedipus Rex
with Levine, and Ballo with Herbert von Karajan.
In his distinguished career, bass-baritone Stephen West (John Quincy Adams) has appeared with many
of the finest opera companies in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Bayreuth, Salzburg, and
Santa Fe Festivals, Opéra National de Paris, Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Lyric Opera of Chicago, New
York City Opera, and San Francisco Opera, among many others. He has also performed with the Los
Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston, Atlanta, and Montreal symphonies and the Philadelphia and Cleveland
orchestras. Mr. West’s operatic roles include the heroes of Verdi, Wotan in Das Rheingold, Scarpia in
Tosca, Mephistopheles in Faust, and the title role in Boito’s Mefistofele as well as Don Alfonso in Così Fan
Tutte, and des Grieux in Manon. He has collaborated with some of the world’s finest conductors, including
James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Charles Mackerras, Julius Rudel, Michael Gielen, and
Richard Bonynge.

The American tenor Thomas Young (The Trickster God), one of today’s foremost interpreters of
contemporary opera, created the dual role of Street/Elijah Muhammad in Anthony Davis’s X: The Life and
Times of Malcolm X (New York City Opera), as well as the Inspector—written especially for him—in Davis’s
Under the Double Moon (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis). He created the title role of Tan Dun’s Marco
Polo at the 1996 Munich Festival, later singing the work in Amsterdam and Hong Kong. Young triumphed
in his debuts at Covent Garden in Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler and—on 48 hours’ notice—at
Florence’s Maggio Musicale as Aron in Arnold Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron under Zubin Mehta. He has
sung Olivier Messiaen’s St. Francis d’Assise at the Salzburg Festival and John Adams’s The Death of
Klinghoffer at the San Francisco Opera. In concert with American orchestras, Young performs repertoire
ranging from Bach (Mass in B Minor, Kansas City Symphony) to Elliott Carter (In Sleep, In Thunder, Los
Angeles Philharmonic). His discography includes X, Marco Polo, The Death of Klinghoffer, Schoenberg’s
Von Heute auf Morgen, and a solo album of French and American art songs.
Bass-baritone Patrick Blackwell (Burnah) was born in Washington, D.C., and studied at Juilliard. He is
an alumnus of several prestigious young-artist programs, including San Francisco Opera’s Merola/Western
Opera Theater, Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera Studio, and Aspen Opera Theater. Blackwell
made his New York City Opera debut in 1995 as Colline in La Bohème, and in 1996 debuted at the
Florentine Opera of Milwaukee as Baron Douphol in La Traviata. He has appeared in a workshop
production of Carmen Jones at New York’s Lincoln Center. Other recent credits include the role of Robert
Garner in Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago.
A native of Los Angeles, baritone Timothy Robert Blevins (Grabeau) has appeared as Otis in William
Schuman’s The Mighty Casey at the Juilliard Opera Center, Bartolo in I1 Barbiere di Siviglia with the
Polish National Symphony in Martinique, and Jake in Porgy and Bess at Puerto Rico’s Casals Festival.
Blevins made his Broadway debut in 1993 as Sgt. John in Miss Saigon, which he repeated in Stuttgart. His
New York credits include Show Boat on Broadway; Sweet Adeline and One Touch of Venus for City
Center’s “Encore” series; and a recital at Weill Concert Hall (Carnegie Hall). He has also portrayed Crown
in Porgy and Bess with Connecticut Opera and Michigan Opera Theater. Blevins is a former Pavarotti
Competition winner.
The tenor David Lee Brewer’s (Kinna) experience in contemporary works includes the premiere of
John Duffy’s Black Water at Philadelphia’s American Music Theater Festival. Other engagements include
debuts at Connecticut Opera (Sportin’ Life, Porgy and Bess) and Virginia Opera (Camille, The Merry
Widow). He recently appeared with the Cleveland Opera and the Metropolitan Opera Guild. The
Nebraska native performed in Houston Grand Opera’s Porgy and Bess throughout this country and in
Japan, Paris, and Milan. He has been heard with the Houston Symphony in Elie Siegmeister’s I Have a
Dream, and at Carnegie Hall in Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore.
E. Mani Cadet (Kaleh) is a seasoned performer, having achieved great acclaim in opera, musical theater,
and as a concert entertainer. Among Mr. Cadet’s most cherished roles are Jazz in Blitzstein’s opera Regina,
Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Agwe from Once on This Island, and Old Deuteronomy in Cats.
Most recently, Mr. Cadet appeared as Remus in Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha with North Star Opera, Sam in
The Wild Party at The Fitzgerald, and Faust in Boito’s Mefistofele at the Théâtre de la Jeune Lune.
A Ryan Opera Center alumnus, American tenor Brad Cresswell (1st Reporter) has performed with Lyric
in roles ranging from Sir Bruno in I Puritani to the Doctor in Luciano Berio’s Un re in ascolto. Other
milestones in the tenor’s career include the American premiere of two operas by Judith Weir, Blond
Eckbert and The Vanishing Bridegroom. Cresswell has sung leading roles with other American companies,
including the New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Washington Opera. His international debut
came as Canio in Pagliacci with the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. 
Since his major opera company debut in 1986–87 at Pittsburgh Opera, the American tenor John
Daniecki (Abolitionist Tappan) has established himself both in this country and in Europe in diverse
repertoire. His many New York City Opera appearances include Carmina Burana (a work he has sung with
seven important American orchestras), the title role in George Whyte’s The Dreyfus Affair (world
premiere), and Dan White in the New York premiere of Harvey Milk. He made his Spoleto Festival debut
in 1995 in the title role of Shostakovich’s The Nose, which he reprised at the Netherlands Opera. His
appearances abroad include Hérold’s Zampa at the Wexford Festival, Mozart’s Die Schuldigkeit der ersten
Gebotes at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, and Mime in Das Rheingold with the New Zealand Symphony.
Daniecki was a 1992 Grammy Award winner for Carmina Burana.
Bass Andrew Funk (3rd Reporter), a former member of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center
and the Juilliard Opera Center, made his debut at the Los Angeles Opera in Die Frau ohne Schatten, at
The Santa Fe Opera in Berlioz’s Béatrice et Benedict, at Seattle Opera performing Hagen in
Götterdämmerung, and was chosen by composer Philip Glass and Tony Award-winning director Mary
Zimmerman to sing the world premiere of Galileo Galilei in both Chicago and New York. He is a frequent
guest artist with Lyric Opera of Chicago, making his debut in the world premiere of Amistad, and since
appearing in the company’s productions of Falstaff, La Gioconda, Roméo et Juliette, Abduction from the
Seraglio, Tristan und Isolde, Die Zauberflöte, Salome, and Aida, among others.
American bass-baritone Paul Grizzell (6th Reporter) recently appeared with the Chicago Symphony
Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim in Chicago and on tour at Carnegie Hall. With the Cygnus Orchestra
of England he has recently sung Donizetti’s rarely heard Requiem, as well as Bach’s Magnificat. Other
engagements have included an opera gala with Florida’s Imperial Symphony, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9
with the Northbrook Symphony, Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony with the Illinois Chamber Symphony,
and his first performance of the title role of Rigoletto. His operatic experience also includes Chicago’s
Opera Theater’s The Tender Land and L’italiana in Algeri. Grizzell appears on disc in Sowerby’s Forsaken
of Man and Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, the latter under Sir Georg Solti.
American baritone Bruce Hall (Lieutenant/Judge) made his Lyric Opera debut as Potapitsch in The
Gambler (1991–92), and later returned as the British Ambassador in The Ghosts of Versailles. Hall’s
repertoire ranges from Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, and Mozart to such demanding contemporary works as
Philip Glass’s Satyagraha (which he sang in the world and U.S. premieres). He has appeared with the
Cologne Opera, Stuttgart Opera, Netherlands Opera, and the major companies of Seattle, Michigan, and
Cleveland. In addition to appearances at the Aspen, Meadow Brook, and Grant Park festivals, he has sung
Handel’s Messiah in the Mormon Tabernacle. Hall can be heard on disc as Jesus in the New World
Records recording of Sowerby’s Forsaken of Man.
American baritone Kevin Kees (4th Reporter) made his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in Amistad. He
has performed extensively in opera houses throughout the United States, including Virginia Opera,
Nashville Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Opera North, Ash Lawn-Highland, and Opera Illinois,
among others. 
Since 1990 American baritone Philip Kraus (Southern Senator) has performed in twenty-one roles for
Lyric Opera of Chicago, most recently Dr. Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. He has been featured with
many important American operatic and orchestral organizations, most recently a debut with Los Angeles
Opera as Baron Douphol in La Traviata. Kraus has appeared in concert with the Chicago, Cleveland,
Dallas, Milwaukee, and Denver symphony orchestras. With the Grant Park Symphony he has sung under
Macal, Pinnocle, Slatkin, and Zinman. Kraus performed Fidelio with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
under Solti at Carnegie Hall and on disc.
The late Kansas-born tenor Richard Markley (Phrenologist) debuted at Lyric in 1991 as Goro in
Madama Butterfly. He scored a particular success as Little Bat in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah (1993–94), later
singing the role at Houston Grand Opera and then for his European debut at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.
He portrayed Goro with the Washington, Florentine (Milwaukee), and Nashville opera companies, as well
as Valzacchi in Der Rosenkavalier at the Portland Opera and Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio
with Skylight Opera. He can be heard on compact disc as Goro in a 1996 recording of all three versions of
Madama Butterfly.
The American bass Kevin Maynor (Cook) has been heard with many major American opera companies,
including those of New York City, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Cincinnati, and Spoleto U.S.A. He made his
European operatic debut at the Scottish Opera as Hunding in Die Walküre, which he has sung at the
Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile, and at California’s Opera Pacific (where he has since returned in Don
Giovanni). He recently sang Pimen in Boris Godunov with the Milwaukee Symphony and Flagello’s The
Passion of Martin Luther King at Carnegie Hall. Maynor’s varied recital activities include appearances at
South Dakota State University, Bradley University, and South Africa’s Grahamstown Festival.
The soprano Anisha M. McFarland (Bahia), a Chicago native, began her association with Lyric Opera
by portraying Pamina in The Magic Flute for “Opera in the Neighborhoods,” the program's inaugural
production; and by performing her one-woman show, “Believe,” for school audiences. McFarland has
appeared with the Palm Beach Opera as Frasquita in Carmen, and as the First Lady in The Magic Flute
with the Independent Opera Theatre of Riga, Latvia. McFarland participated in Dallas’s African-American
Festival, making her Dallas Symphony debut as Bess in Porgy and Bess. She studied at the Eastman School
of Music and Southern Methodist University.
American bass Wilbur Pauley (Don Pedro/The Spaniard) is a Lyric veteran of many seasons, with
repertoire including The Marriage of Figaro, Gianni Schicchi, Die Zauberflöte, Berio’s Un re in ascolto,
and Bolcom’s McTeague. Another Lyric role, Wilhelm in The Ghosts of Versailles, was created by Pauley
in the Metropolitan Opera world premiere. He has also sung the crucial role of the Compère in Robert
Wilson’s Four Saints in Three Acts production at Houston Grand Opera, and in New York and
Edinburgh. Pauley performs on several major film soundtracks, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
He sang his first Osmin in The Abduction from the Seraglio at Opera/Columbus, and debuted at the
Salzburg Festival as Trinity Moses in Weill’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny.
A Ryan Opera Center alumnus, tenor Misha Royzen (5th Reporter) made his Lyric Opera debut in 1997
as the High Priest in Idomeneo. Royzen has also appeared in the Opera Center’s world premiere of
Between Two Worlds (The Dybbuk) and at Grant Park in Iolanta. Born in Moscow, Royzen studied oboe
there before moving to New York to earn a master’s degree in oboe at the Mannes College of Music. While
doing so, he also learned English and freelanced with New York and New Jersey ensembles. He switched to
singing in 1994. In 1997 he won a Sullivan Foundation grant and the Encouragement Award in New York’s
Opera Index competition. He is a former Santa Fe Opera apprentice artist. 
Baritone William Andrew Stuckey (2nd Reporter) continues to expand his repertoire, adding roles and
growing as an artist and is considered a leading interpreter of Verdi roles including Conte di Luna in Il
Trovatore, the title role in Falstaff, and Germont in La Traviata. His portrayals of Enrico in Lucia di
Lammermoor and Tonio in I Pagliacci have been highly praised. Among the many companies with which
he has sung are The Santa Fe Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Baltimore Opera, and Syracuse Opera.
With Amistad, tenor William Watson (President Martin Van Buren), a Chicago native, made his fourth
Lyric appearance since his 1983 debut in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Watson’s operatic experience includes
two seasons at Germany’s Aachen Stadttheater; L’elisir d’amore in Klagenfurt, Austria; and roles with the
Cleveland Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, and Palm Beach Opera. In the concert world, Mr. Watson is a
critically acclaimed Bach Evangelist, with performances with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, Noord
Nederlands Orkest, Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall, and the symphonies of New Jersey,
Alabama, Portland, Kitchener/Waterloo (ON), and Xalapa, Mexico. Other concert appearances include
the Chicago, Cincinnati, Montreal, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Mexico’s National symphonies.
Dennis Russell Davies is highly regarded as a conductor who is at the forefront of both the orchestral
and operatic worlds. Davies is also an accomplished pianist, and is sought out by orchestras, composers,
and fellow musicians worldwide for his inspiring collaborations and interpretive mastery. A frequent guest
conductor with major orchestras and opera companies throughout the world, Davies is Chief Conductor
and Music Director of the Bruckner Orchester Linz, and Chief Conductor of the Linz Opera. He has most
recently been appointed Music Director of the Basel Symphony Orchestra in Basel, Switzerland, effective
as of the 2009–10 season, and is also Professor of Orchestral Conducting at the Salzburg Mozarteum, as
well as Conductor Laureate of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra. In the United States, he holds the title of
Conductor Laureate of the American Composers Orchestra, which he co-founded thirty-one years ago. The
year 2009 marks forty years of uninterrupted music directorships of various orchestras, both nationally and
internationally. His prolific recordings, as a conductor as well as pianist, number more than seventy, have
received numerous awards, and can be found on many labels. The diversity of his recordings extends from
Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Bizet, and Satie to Shostakovich, Glass, and Kancheli, to name a few.
Director George C. Wolfe’s directing credits for the theater include Jelly’s Last Jam, (Drama Desk and
Outer Critics Award) Angels in America: Millennium Approaches (Tony and Drama Desk Award) and
Perestroika (Drama Desk Award), Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk (Tony and Drama League
Awards), Topdog/Underdog (Obie Award), Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 (Drama Desk Award), Elaine
Stritch at Liberty (Tony Award–Unique Theatrical Event), The Tempest, The Wild Party, and Caroline or
Change, which won the Evening Standard and Oliver Awards for Best Musical.
Wolfe directed the film Nights in Rodanthe, scheduled for release this fall and Lackawanna Blues,
for which he earned The Directors Guild Award, a National Board of Review Award, an Independent
Spirit Nomination for Best First Feature, a Christopher Award, and the Humanitas Prize. Lackawanna
Blues won four NAACP Image Awards, earned seven Emmy award nominations and premiered at the
Sundance Film Festival.
He is the writer of the award-winning The Colored Museum, which he also directed for PBS,
adapted and directed Spunk (Obie Award) and created Harlem Courage and Her Children (adapted by
Tony Kushner and with Meryl Streep), Macbeth, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and Radiant Baby, based on
the life of Keith Haring. Wolfe was named a living landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy
and from 1993–2005 was the Producer of the Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival.
Donald Palumbo was appointed Chorus Master of Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1991, and during his
sixteen-year tenure with the company developed the Lyric Opera Chorus into one of the most distinguished
ensembles of its kind in the world. He is the former music director of Boston’s Chorus Pro Musica and the
former Chorus Master of Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Dallas Opera, and Canadian Opera, where he
remains a consultant. Highly respected internationally, Palumbo has undertaken numerous prestigious
European engagements, including performances with the choruses of Radio France, the Aix-en-Provence
Festival, L’Opéra de Lyon, and the Theatre du Châtelet in Paris. He was the first American to be appointed
Chorus Director of the Salzburg Festival, where he remained for three seasons. In 2007, Mr. Palumbo
assumed the position of Chorus Master at the Metropolitan Opera.
Choreographer Hope Clarke’s collaborations with director George C. Wolfe include the Broadway hit
Jelly’s Last Jam (Tony Award nomination for best choreography, 1992) and the plays Spunk and The
Colored Museum (for which she created movement and staging). The first African-American woman to
direct a major production of Porgy and Bess, Clarke’s staging of Gershwin’s opera premiered at Houston
Grand Opera in 1995, and has since toured major American cities, La Scala, the Opera National de
Paris/Bastille, and Tokyo. Clarke recently directed Porgy and Bess for Opera Ebony in Helsinki, Finland.
A highly successful television actress, Clarke has acted extensively on television and opposite Bill Cosby and
Sidney Poitier in films. Her Broadway performances include West Side Story and leads in six other major
musicals. She is a former principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She has been
featured on “N.Y. Undercover” and “Law and Order.” 
Scene 1: “The Unknown Is My Realm”
The Spanish schooner Amistad, out of Cuba, drifts off Long Island. The “ghost” ship is legendary—taken
over by “slaves,” haunting Eastern waters. Aboard ship is one who shapes their fate—a ragged, boastful
African deity. The Trickster God, Esu, is the spirit of rebellion, uncertainty, and mischief. He is the God of
the Crossroads, mediating the human and the divine. When humans meet him, they are apt to lose their
way yet, ironically, he holds the key to their survival. This Trickster has been led astray himself, and the
torturous Middle Passage journey has nearly blinded him and weakened his powers. The Trickster claims
that he will yet prevail (Aria: “The unknown is my realm”), but asks for help from the Goddess of the
Scene 2: “Cloth for the Dead”
The Trickster hears the ship’s two hostages, a navigator and a slaver, scheming (Duet: “We may yet get
away”). They tie the helm on a northerly course, as they have every night. The African leader Cinque
discovers the trick and realizes they have not headed to Africa, but zigzagged north toward another fate.
(Duet: “We’re drifting”)
When the ship runs aground, an enterprising seaman discovers them and seizes the ship to sell the Africans
as salvaged cargo. The two Spaniards tell of mutiny and murder and claim to own the Africans, who insist
they are free. (Chorus: “We have come to naught”) Cinque believes they are victims of a Mende taboo: to
see a god can bring danger. (Aria and Chorus: “The meaning is clear”) Antonio, a lifelong slave and witness
to the mutiny, has fears too. (Aria: “And me, am I save’?”)
Scene 3: “Savages of Legend”
Newspaper reporters watch the captives being paraded to jail, and joust over their lot. (Sextet: “So these are
the savages”) The Reporters inflame the American Chorus into a racist tirade culminating in (Chorus: “Give
them liberty, We’ll give them death!”). Setting foot on American soil seems to restore the god of chance
(Aria: “They yap and snap”) and scares the Africans. (Ensemble: “Are they going to kill us?”)
Scene 4: “Ankle and Wrist”
As Americans gawk at the jailed captives, Margru tells of her capture (Aria: “They wanted a girl”) and the
captives vow not to reveal where they are from to protect their families. Cinque recalls being in a net.
(Chorus: “Ankle and Wrist”; Aria: “The past is a fading daylight”) A “phrenologist” measures the skulls of
the Mende prisoners and renders his findings to the press. (“The base of his brain”)
Scene 5: “The Greatest Liberty”
(Chorus: “Jesus Saviour, pilot me”) Abolitionist Tappan comes to plead with Adams to act as lead lawyer
for the Africans. The former president resists because he has not been in court in years. He then muses on
the young republic’s vision of liberty. (Aria: “The greatest liberty”)
Scene 1: “Posers, Dandies, Hacks”
The reporters introduce the cast at court. (Sextet: “It’s quite a show”)
Scene 2: “What the Navigator Saw”
The Navigator tells of waking to the touch of a blade. (Aria: “The moonlight died”)
Scene 3: President’s Parlor—“A Foreign Appeal”
The President and the Spaniard plot to sneak the captives to Cuba if the Africans should win in court.
Scene 4: “What Antonio Saw”
Antonio recounts the captain’s death. (Aria: “That day each get one banana”) The court turns against the
Scene 5: “They Saw a God”
The Captives say the story begins in Africa. (Sextet: “We thought they came for salt”)
Scene 6: “Skin of Clouds”
The Goddess of the Waters, invoked by their tale, recalls Middle Passage. (Aria: “They come as if from the
Scene 7: “Freed by Lord and Chief”
The captives describe how, upon landing in Cuba, the seeds of revolt are sown when Antonio rebukes the
Trickster (Chorus: “Nansi, Brer Nansi”) and the Cook threatens the captives. Antonio tells them they are
now in a new world. (Aria: “I’m not like you”)
Scene 8: “The Rising”
The Trickster frees the captives and starts the revolt. (Aria: “It’s time to take the helm”) Cinque decides to
spare Antonio. (Aria: “He sleeps at his master’s feet”) 
Scene 9: “Bird on the Wing”
Adams sums up before the court (Aria: “To own one’s life”) and the Judge renders his verdict. The
captives’ case is won. The Trickster reveals to Cinque his decision to stay in the Americas. (Duet: “Hush
now, Translator”) The Captives are free to return to Africa. (Chorus: [reprise] “The meaning is clear”) 
Notes on Characters (Thulani Davis)
The Trickster God—A master of disguise, who lives on society’s edges, he translates all tongues,
especially between gods and mortals. He is amoral—appearing as many animals, who will steal, molest, or
kill, and eat other animals. Offerings are made to him first to prevent any accidents. 
Cinque (died ca. 1879)—Leader of the captives. A rice farmer who lived with his father and a wife and
three children. He returned to Mende and later became an interpreter for the American Missionary
Rep. John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) of Massachusetts, sixth U.S. president (1825–29) —At the time
the former president was in the House of Representatives. Until his death he was obsessed with exposing
the corruption in the Van Buren administration found in the Amistad case. 
Goddess of the Waters—Like the Trickster, this West African deity, is known throughout the African
Diaspora. They both represent culture shared by Africa with the Americas. The mother of waters is known
also as the mother of all the other orisha, or gods in African Yoruba, Brazilian Santeria, and Haitian vodun.
She is a mature and sensual female spirit. She likes fans made of palm leaves or peacock feathers, and in
the Americas is seen in great indigo skirts with white petticoats.
Abolitionist Tappan—Based on Lewis Tappan (1788–1873), member of a New York silk merchant
family that helped to finance the abolitionist cause. His brother Arthur was a founder of the American Anti-
Slavery Society and both experienced mob violence, vandalism and hate mail for their work. In the South, a
price of $100,000 was put on their heads. At the end of the trials he and others arranged for the slave
Antonio (a 16-year-old cabin boy) to escape to Canada. 
President Van Buren (1782–1862)—Eighth U.S. President (1837-41). A Jeffersonian Democrat, Van
Buren earlier served as Governor of New York, and Secretary of State under Jackson. Van Buren was
already unpopular at the time of the case, and worried about reelection. He lost to William. H. Harrison,
who died a month into office, succeeded by John Tyler. Van Buren ran for President two more times. 
The Spaniard is a composite of two Spanish officials with overlapping terms in this case: Don Angel
Calderon de la Barca, Spanish minister to the United States in 1839–40; and Pedro Alacantara de Argaiz,
minister in late 1839. 
The Navigator and Don Pedro are composites based on two survivors of the Amistad—Jose Ruiz and
Pedro Montes—and the buyer, Pedro Martinez, a major slaver with company headquarters in West Africa
where the captives were taken. 
The Judge represents both a Connecticut judge and the men of the Supreme Court which, at the time,
had just been enlarged from six to eight. Five of them, including Chief Justice Taney, were Southerners who
had, at one time or another, owned slaves. One died during the last trial. 
Episteme. Episteme. Gramavision 79508.
The Ghost Factory. Shem Guibbory, violin; Anthony Davis, piano; Gerry Hemingway, Pheeroan AkLaff,
percussion; Kansas City Symphony Orchestra; William McGlaughlin, conductor. Gramavision R2-79429.
Hemispheres. Episteme. Gramavision R2-79428.
Lady of the Mirrors. Anthony Davis, piano. India Navigation 1047.
Middle Passage. Anthony Davis, piano. Gramavision GRCD-8401.
Tania. Cynthia Aaronson-Davis, soprano, Avery Brooks, bass; Thomas Young, tenor; Episteme; Rand
Steiger, conductor. Koch 7467.
X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. Eugene Perry, baritone; Thomas J. Young, tenor; Priscilla
Baskerville, soprano; Hilda Harris, mezzo-soprano; Herbert Perry, bass-baritone; Orchestra of St. Luke’s;
William Henry Curry, conductor. Gramavision R2-79470.
“Anthony Davis Biography and List of Works.” G. Schirmer, (accessed August 22, 2008).
Aptheker, Herbert. American Negro Slave Revolts. New York: International Publishers, [1943] 1974.
Fraser, C. Gerald. “A Committed Crowd Supports Premiere of ‘X’.” New York Times, September 29,
Gates, Henry Louis. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. New York:
Oxford University Press, 1988.
Harvey, David.  The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. 
Oxford:  Wiley-Blackwell, 1989.
Humphrey, Mary Lou. “Anthony Davis.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed August 22, 2008).
Lieb, Michael. Children of Ezekiel: Aliens, UFOs, the Crisis of Race, and the Advent of End Time.
Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998.
Northam, Jackie, and Bob Edwards. “Amistad Opens.” National Public Radio “Morning Edition,”
December 2, 1997.
Osagie, Iyunolu Folayan. The Amistad Revolt: Memory, Slavery, and the Politics of Identity in the United
States and Sierra Leone. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000.
Rampersad, Arnold, and Hilary Herbold, ed. The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry. New
York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Teichner, Martha, and Charles Osgood. “A Truth Restored; Growing Interest In The Amistad Mutiny As
Part of American History.” CBS Sunday Morning, December 14, 1997.
Tirro, Frank. Jazz:  A History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993.
Amistad is published by G. Schirmer, Inc.
Producer: Norman Pellegrini
Engineer: Chris Willis
Digital mastering: Paul Zinman, SoundByte Productions, Inc. New York City
Recorded during the world-premiere performances at Lyric Opera of Chicago, December 17 and 20, 1997.
Design: Bob Defrin Design, Inc., NYC
Anthony Davis
I encountered this neglected episode in American history first in a poem by Robert Hayden entitled
“Middle Passage.” The poem detailed numerous voyages of slave ships to these shores through captains’
logs and sailors’ tales. This narrative culminates with the Amistad rebellion and the story of the trial. In the
poem Hayden captures the story of slavery and the hope contained within his lines, “Voyage through death
to life upon these shores,” which speaks to the essential irony of our people and culture born of the horror
of slavery.
It has been an honor to work with my co-conspirators, Thulani Davis and George C. Wolfe. They have
challenged me to do my best and to search for new solutions to artistic problems. I would also like to
recognize the late Ardis Krainik, former general director of Lyric Opera, for her faith in this project. I
would like to thank William Mason and the staff at Lyric, who nurtured and supported this piece to its
fruition, and the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, who guided the piece through the premiere in Chicago.
I also need to recognize the assistance of Randall Eng, who helped to proofread the piece and kept copious
notes during the rehearsals and the production. And thank you to my publisher, G. Schirmer.
I would also like to express my gratitude to people who lent their support in the development of Amistad.
Thanks to the late Joe di Rugeriis, Marjorie Samoff of the Prince Music Theater, and Gina Andriolo of
Andriolo Communications.
I would particularly like to thank everyone who helped to make this recording a reality. Paul Tai at New
World Records has been a tremendous advocate for Amistad and without his dogged persistence this
recording would never have been released. I would also like to recognize Penny Luedtke of the Luedtke
Agency, who has offered tremendous support for me and my music, and Nigel Redden for his continued
advocacy of the opera.
Thanks also to Marianne McDonald, George E. Lewis, Jack Carney, Joan Desens, Eileen Mackevich, Neil
and Diana King, Walter Staab, Magda Krance, Earl Howard and Susan Tiefenbrun.
Thulani Davis
Thanks go to many people in this endeavor but the libretto would not be possible without the thoughtful
and brilliant contributions of my collaborators, Anthony Davis, composer, and George C. Wolfe, director
of the world premiere production. Any writer would be proud, as I am, to have worked with these two
brilliant artists.
I am thankful to the late Ardis Krainik, William Mason, General Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, and
to the Lyric company for the opportunity to see the work realized. Thanks also to Marjorie Samoff,
President of The Prince Music Theater for her early role in the development of the work. Thanks to New
World Records for issuing this recording.
For support, my gratitude goes to: The Pew Charitable Trust and Theater Communications Group for a
National Theater Artist Residency at the New York Shakespeare Festival, The Rockefeller Foundation,
Meet the Composer, Opera America, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
For research assistance: Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University, The Amistad Committee, Inc. of New
Haven, The New Haven Colony Historical Society, the National Archives, Louis Massiah, The Amistad
Research Center at Tulane University, Camille Goodison, and Sara Gyllenstierna.
For deus ex machina: Faith Hampton Childs, Suzanne Scherr, Seth Gelblum, and Jerrold Couture. For
numberless acts of mercy and love, Joseph Jarman.
The world-premiere production was made possible by the Lyric Opera Board of
Directors in memory of Ardis Krainik, and by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation. Major corporate support was provided by AT&T. Additional funding was
provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s
Digest Opera for a New America, a project of Opera America. Amistad was
commissioned by Lyric Opera of Chicago and the American Music Theater Festival of
This recording was made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts,
The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University,
and the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trust.
Special thanks to Nicholas Ivor Martin of Lyric Opera of Chicago. Thanks to Magda Krance and Mitchell
G. Heller.
William Mason, General Director; Sir Andrew Davis, Music Director; Bruno Bartoletti, Artistic Director
Herman E. Krawitz, President; Lisa Kahlden, Vice-President; Paul M. Tai, Director of Artists and
Repertory; Mojisola Oké, Bookkeeper; Anthony DiGregorio, Production Associate.
Richard Aspinwall; Milton Babbitt; Jean Bowen; Thomas Teige Carroll; Emanuel Gerard; David Hamilton;
Rita Hauser; Lisa Kahlden; Herman E. Krawitz; Fred Lerdahl; Robert Marx; Arthur Moorhead; Elizabeth
Ostrow; Cynthia Parker; Larry Polansky; Don Roberts; Marilyn Shapiro; Patrick Smith; Paul M. Tai; Blair
Francis Goelet (1926–1998), Chairman
New World Records, 75 Broad Street, Suite 2400, New York, NY 10004-2415
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