Vanqui is a tale of death and resurrection through the eyes of the heroine, Vanqui, a 19th-century enslaved woman. The original music of Leslie Savoy Burrs and the libretto by John A. Williams frames a uniquely American experience in a compelling, multi-dimensional work of art. This opera portrays the story of two Africans, Vanqui and Prince. Enslaved in America, the married couple is torn apart to later be cruelly murdered. They resurrect as spirits who ride the wind searching for each other and for the Baobab tree and during their journey, they encounter famous freedom fighters including Henry “Box” Brown and Nat Turner. Reunited in the end, Vanqui and Prince symbolize the triumph of enslaved people over an inhumane system and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
Vanqui will be sung in English with English titles.
Performances will be on May 22, 2022 at 2PM and 5PM at the Lincoln Theatre.
Performance time is approximately 90 minutes without intermission.
Vanqui is not recommended for patrons under the age of 13.
TRIGGER WARNING: This show contains scenes with physical & domestic violence, offensive language, death, identity-based discrimination and harassment.
VANQUI READING LIST
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, this #1 New York Times bestseller chronicles a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. The basis for the acclaimed original Amazon Prime Video series directed by Barry Jenkins. Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood—where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him.
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GRIL by Harriet Jacobs
An autobiography by Harriet Jacobs, a mother and fugitive slave, published in 1861 by L. Maria Child, who edited the book for its author. Jacobs used the pseudonym Linda Brent.
THE LIFE OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO by Olaudah Equiano
An enslaved man who bought his freedom and wrote compellingly about his experiences, Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745–1797) was an extraordinary man who became a prominent figure associated with the campaign to abolish the slave trade.
100 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT THE NEGRO by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
In 1934, 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof was published by Joel A. Rogers, a largely self-educated black journalist and historian. Now with élan and erudition–and winning enthusiasm–Henry Louis Gates, Jr., gives us a corrective yet loving homage to Rogers’s work. Relying on the latest scholarship, Gates leads us on a romp through African American history and gossip in question and answer format.
BARRACOON (the Story of the Last Cargo) by Zora Neale Hurston
A non-fiction work by Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon, the Story of the Last Cargo, is based on her interviews in 1927 with Cudjoe Lewis, the last presumed living survivor of the Middle Passage.
COVID-19 SAFETY GUIDELINES
Your safety is our top priority.
Our safety policy was designed in consultation with leading experts in the fields of epidemiology, public health, workplace/industrial hygiene, and infectious diseases.
Updated April 4, 2022
For the performances of 40 Days of Opera throughout the city of Columbus:
- Opera Columbus will no longer require that audience members show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test.
- Masks are encouraged for all patrons.
The Opera Columbus will continue to monitor government policy changes, Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, government mandates, and public health notices and make changes as necessary or appropriate to ensure the safety of staff, artists, and the public.
Limitation on Liability/Assumption of Risk
Any person entering the premises waives all civil liability against this premises owner and operator for any injuries caused by the inherent risk associated with contracting COVID-19 at public gatherings, except for gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm, by the individual or entity or the premises.
Additionally, you, on behalf of yourself and any accompanying minor, voluntarily assume all risks and danger incidental to the event for which the ticket is issued, whether occurring before, during or after the event, and you waive any claims for personal injury, death, illness, damage, loss, claim, liability, or expense, of any kind against Opera Columbus., and its agents, sponsors, officers, directors, shareholders, owners and employees.
To read more about CAPA’s safety protocol, click here.
*Guidelines are subject to change
Praised for her “big, beautiful voice with an attractive edge and sparkle” soprano, Adia Evans is quickly establishing herself as an up-and-coming operatic talent. During her tenure in Knoxville, Evans has been featured as Adina in University of Tennessee Opera Theater (UTOT)’s production of L’elisir d’amore, Laetita in Old Maid and the Thief, Ms. Dara in An Embarrassing Position, and La Zia in Knoxville Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly. This year, Evans won Second Place and Audience Choice in the Harlem Opera Theater Vocal Competition and Fourth Place and Audience Choice in Opera Columbus’s Cooper-Bing Competition.
Evans holds a Bachelor of Music from University of Maryland College Park and a Master of Music from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Evans is a proud alumna of the Baltimore School for the Arts. Devoted to social action and advocacy, Evans completed two terms as an AmeriCorps member in Washington DC, through Public Allies. She works in diversity and inclusion, volunteer engagement, education and arts administration when she is not on the stage.
Marcus Jefferson is originally from Wayne, New Jersey and holds degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and the Eastman School of Music. His stage credits include Don Ottavio with Oswego Opera Theater; Elder Hayes and Little Bat in Susannah and Benvolio in Roméo et Juliette with the Janiec Opera Company; as well as Don Ottavio, Tenor 2 in Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and Nutrice in L’incoronazione di Poppea with the Eastman Opera Theater. With the Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater he has performed scenes as Idomeneo, Giles Corey from The Crucible and Dr. Caius from Falstaff. His recent recording projects include solo works by H. Leslie Adams with the New Muses Project with the Yale School of Music. He currently studies with Jonathan Beyer and Marlena Malas.
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Hannah Marie Bullock is a new and emerging artist making her footprint in the opera world. She was most recently seen in her debut performance of Micaela (Carmen) in a co-production between Camerata Bardi and Teatro Grattacielo in Heraklion, Crete. Further international engagements include a young artist position with the inaugural Opera for Peace Academy in Rome, Italy in Summer 2022. In Summer 2021 Ms. Bullock had the pleasure of performing Contessa Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro) with the International Summer Opera Festival of Morelia.
In addition to a budding international career, Ms. Bullock is frequently engaged at home. Recent performances with Opera Columbus include Countess Ceprano in the Spring 2023 production of Rigoletto and Moremi in the 2022 production of Vanqui. Other recent engagements include Bess (Porgy and Bess), with Opera Project Columbus.
Ms. Bullock is a graduate of Capital University with Bachelor of Music in Music Technology and of Ohio University with a Master of Music in Vocal Performance. In addition to performing, Ms. Bullock serves as the Director of Operations for Graves Piano Company in Columbus. She thoroughly enjoys working with the Columbus community to promote local music and artists.
According to Opera Today, Bass-Baritone Artega Wright has excited audiences with his vibrant, mellifluous, and authoritative tone. Singing a range of works including classic early Baroque to more contemporary urban music, Wright has the unique charisma of a “beautiful deep voice, and a smile all the more charming”, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Originally hailing from Dallas, Texas, Wright is now based in the Mid-West, where he has performed with some of Chicago’s most notable ensembles and storefront opera companies including Chicago Opera Theatre. During his time, he has had the honor to premier in new works commissioned by the playhouse such as Quamino’s Map and Freedom Ride. Wright is also active with Opera Columbus most recently singing Spurton and Nat Turner in Leslie S. Burrs’ Vanqui and the Cardinal in Puccini’s Tosca. In 2022 Wright was named a participant of the Frank R. Brownell III Apprentice Artist program at Des Moines Metro Opera. When COVID compromised the cast, of Des Moines’ Porgy and Bess, Wright stepped in as the lead role of Porgy, “saving the show” according to Opera Today and receiving “an ovation from the audience and cast members the likes of which [they had] rarely heard.” This was a highlight of Wright’s career thus far helping to send off the world-renowned bass-baritone Simon Estes’ 60-year opera career. Wright earned his master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University and a bachelor’s in Vocal Performance from Wayland Baptist University.
Soprano, Skye Marie, is a noted storyteller and singing actor, praised for “Running a huge emotional gamut from elation to despair.” (South Florida Classical Review) Most recently, she has engaged audiences as the title role in Massenet’s Cendrillon with Miami Music Festival. As a Central Ohio native, she has performed with Opera Columbus, and Opera Project Columbus in numerous shows including Rigoletto, The Merry Widow, Madama Butterfly, Pagliacci, and this season’s production of Tosca. Later this summer, Scottish audiences will see her role debut as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata with Clyde Opera Group in Glasgow.
Skye earned her Bachelors in Music Performance with a Minor in Italian from The Ohio State University. At OSU, she discovered her passion for opera and music history, which she continues to cultivate in her podcast 2 Bit Musicologists. The podcast dives into the eccentricities of music and why we love the arts.
Robert J. Kerr
Known for his stage savvy, Robert Kerr’s foundation in opera began in musical theater. Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times wrote of his Falstaff: “He made words matter and conveyed the self-delusion of this likable laughingstock… “. Known to Opera Columbus audiences, Robert Kerr returns this season in Tosca and Fellow Travelers. His past performances with the company include the King in Aida; the world première of The Flood by Korine Fujiwara with libretto by Stephen Wadsworth; the title role of Gianni Schicchi; and, Tonio in Pagliacci. Notable credits include a return to Rose Theater with Atsushi Yamada conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra of New York in an all-Verdi concert; he was Pooh-Bah in The Mikado with Performance Santa Fe!; the title role of Rigoletto with Opera Projects Columbus in addition to the title role in Gianni Schicchi with the company. He has been heard as Germont in La traviata with the Philharmonia Orchestra of New York at Lincoln Center and as soloist in Mozart’s Requiem; and, has appeared with the local symphonies on numerous occasions. In prior seasons, Mr. Kerr returned to Japan for engagements in performances of Requiem by Minoru Miki in Natori and reprising the work at Rose Theater at Lincoln Center; he has covered the role of the King in El Gato con Botas with Gotham Chamber Opera; and, was soloist with the New York City Opera Orchestra in a Japan tour of Carmina Burana. Other engagements include his appearance at the Kennedy Center Honors with Sondra Radvanovsky and Joseph Calleja in an Aida tribute to honoree, Martina Arroyo. Equally at home in musical theater, Mr. Kerr has sung King Hildebrand in Princess Ida with So. Ohio Light Opera; the role of Peachum in The Threepenny Opera with Amarillo Opera; and Pooh-Bah in The Mikado.
American operatic baritone Eric McKeever has won consistent praise for his voice of “power and brilliance” (Chicago Tribune) and “considerable flexibility and a communicative presence enhanced by expressive, crystalline diction.” (Opera News) Eric’s 2022-2023 season includes a season of debuts. First, he joins the Delaware Symphony Orchestra in their “Opening Night at the Grand” gala, makes his role debut as Don Alfonso in Così Fan Tutte at Opera Delaware where he serves as an Artist-in-Residence/Artistic Ambassador, sings Falke in Act II of Die Fledermaus with Maryland Opera in their “Ritorna Vincitor” concert, makes house and role debuts with On Site Opera as the title role in Der Kaiser von Atlantis and William Grant Still in Paul Moravec’s Sanctuary Road with the Penn Square Music Festival. And later in the season, he debuts Monterone in Rigoletto with Opera Columbus.
During the 2021-22 season, he performed the title role in Don Giovanni in his return to Indianapolis Opera, made his debut with Teatro Grattacielo as the Banditore in Zandonai’s rarely-heard Giulietta e Romeo, covered the role of Monforte in New Amsterdam Opera’s I Vespri Siciliani, made his recital debut in Opera Delaware’s “Sunday Spotlight” Series, covered the title role in On Site Opera’s production of Gianni Schicchi, and made his debut with Washington DC’s Urban Arias as Papa-Daddy in the world-premiere of Why I live at the P.O.
During the 2020-2021 season he recorded Kamala Sankaram’s Looking at You, available on the Bright Shiny Things label and recorded several roles for Experiments in Opera’s Aqua Net and Funyuns podcast opera. Mr. McKeever also recorded Dandini for Opera on Tap’s digital version of La Cenerentola, performed live in Salt Marsh Opera’s outdoor “Music at the Lighthouse” concert, and performed in Little Opera Theatre of New York livestream of “Zemlinsky’s Zimmer.” Mr. McKeever returned to live performances as Marcello in a new production of La bohème with Opera Columbus and performed outdoor concerts with Opera Delaware and Baltimore Concert Opera.
During the 2019-2020 season, Eric received critical acclaim as Charlie in the world premiere of Kamala Sankaram’s Looking at You with HERE Arts in New York, joined Opera Columbus in “Twisted 3”, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Ballet Met, made his role debut as Tonio in Pagalicci in a return to Salt Marsh Opera, and performed in Baltimore Concert Opera’s “Thirsty Thursday” Concert Series. Eric was scheduled to debut the title role in Don Giovanni with Indianapolis Opera, the title role in Rigoletto with Mill City Summer Opera and make his Anchorage Festival of Music debut in Dave Brubeck’s The Gates of Justice, but those engagements were cancelled due to COVID-19.
Recent performances include Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Opera Columbus, David in L’amico Fritz with Baltimore Concert Opera, Germont in La traviata with Pacific Opera Project, Malatesta in Don Pasquale with Anchorage Opera, the Speaker in The Magic Flute with Florentine Opera, and Frank in Die Fledermaus with Nashville Opera, Finger Lakes Opera, Florentine Opera, and Baltimore Concert Opera.
On the concert stage he has appeared as a soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth with the New Albany Symphony, performed Bernstein’s Songfest with Skidmore College, and made his debut with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra in Dave Brubeck’s The Gates of Justice.
Vocalist Aryssa Leigh Burrs is hailed for her “rich sound and thoughtful musical ideas” while “transcending vocal styles and genres with flexibility and ease.” Ms. Burrs spent the Summer ’21 season as an Apprentice Artist with Central City Opera. While with CCO, she performed a solo Al Fresco Concert, covered the role of Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas, and was a featured ensemble member in a paired down production of Carousel. Aryssa will return as a Resident Artist with Opera Columbus-Capital University, where she was be seen singing the role of Zerlina in their spring 2021 production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Other recent engagements include Elvis Costello’s The Juliet Letters with UrbanArias and Mame Dennis in Mame at The Seagle Festival. Ms. Burrs is a recent graduate of Northwestern University, where she obtained a Masters of Music in Voice and Opera Performance. At Northwestern, she performed in numerous opera productions (Orlofsky, Die Fledermaus; Captain, Dog Days; Baba the Turk, The Rake’s Progress), while also appearing as a soloist with various choral and orchestral ensembles (Am I born, David T. Little; Terra Nostra, Stacy Garrop; The Branch Will Not Break, Christopher Cerrone). As she is committed to using music for cultural and social justice causes, one of Ms. Burrs’ most cherished performances includes her orchestral debut with the Charlotte Symphony as a featured soloist with the acclaimed drag queen production of Thorgy and the Thorchestra. Ms. Burrs also had the honor of performing a set of musical theater and operatic hits for the incomparable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at a “thank you” dinner.
During the pandemic, Aryssa Leigh got to continue to hone her passion for progressive concert work and a lifelong interest in exploring musical styles through story and song. In January ’21, Aryssa created, produced, and performed in the virtual debut performance of her concert entitled Identify, which raised funds for the non-profit organization “Phenomenal Womxn” to launch their summer camp to teach empowerment through the arts to young girls. This concert looks at Aryssa’s personal pillars of identity through the musical and visual arts that help her to feel challenged, curious, and ultimately empowered in those bits of herself; all with the intent of inviting audience and collaborators alike to join her in the use of art in their own explorations. Identify, to be performed again for many seasons to come, encompasses styles ranging from english baroque, french mélodie, german romanic opera, to contemporary feminist pop.
Ms. Burrs holds both a Bachelor of Music Degree in Voice Performance and a Bachelor of Music Education Degree in Choral/General Music from the University of Maryland in College Park. Ms. Burrs has taught K-12 General and Choral Music in Montgomery County, MD Public Schools, while maintaining a private voice and piano studio. DC Metro Theater Arts states, “From the moment she burst onstage, Aryssa [Leigh] Burrs charmed and dazzled the audience with her rich, full voice…she has the knack for singing pop and jazz music exceptionally well without compromising her vocal technique.”
Justin T. Swain, baritone, serves as an Adjunct Professor of Voice at Ohio University (Athens), owns and operates a thriving music school in North Columbus (Musicologie Lewis Center), and is a graduate of The Ohio State University where he earned his MM and BM in Vocal Performance and MA in Vocal Pedagogy studying with Dr. Scott McCoy and Dr. Robin Rice.
A Columbus native, Mr. Swain has served as Opera Columbus’ Teaching Artist (2018-2020) and was most recently seen playing the roles of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Interrogator, and Estonian Frank in Opera Columbus’ production of Fellow Travelers. Mr. Swain maintains an active performance career in the Central Ohio region having made appearances with the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, McConnell Arts Chamber Orchestra, Opera Project Columbus, Harmony Project Columbus, the Denison University Wind Ensemble, in a variety of productions with the Ohio State University Opera Lyric Theatre, the Ohio State University Wind Ensemble, the Ohio Wesleyan Chamber Ensemble, the Columbus Italian Festival, as well as a myriad of mainstage, education outreach, and chorister roles with Opera Columbus.
Leslie Savoy Burrs
Leslie Savoy Burrs has been acclaimed as an award-winning performer, composer and educator. Mr. Burrs was commissioned by NewCourtland Elder Services to write the opera TRANSITIONS: SUNG STORIES. An excerpted live performance of this opera was presented at the 2012 national OPERA America Conference in Philadelphia, PA. In addition Mr. Burrs was invited by OPERA America to be a guest panelist for their Creative Aging seminar presented at the conference. This session demonstrated the unique model Mr. Burrs established to address an effective approach that combines opera, the humanities and community engagement while contributing a new work to the American opera repertoire. A documentary film created by ONI was also presented at the seminar. The documentary highlights Mr. Burrs’ methodology for engaging senior citizens in residential settings through interactive music workshops.
In 2008 Leslie Burrs collaborated with the international award winning author, poet, and sculptor Barbara Chase Riboud to create the opera Portrait Of A Nude Woman As Cleopatra based on Ms. Riboud’s award winning book of poetry of the same name. This work premiered June 2008 with a subsequent CD recording release on iTunes by Opera North, Inc. Presents, August 2012. Mr. Burrs has many commissions to his credit, two of which resulted in a new American opera titled Vanqui for Opera/Columbus with a grant from the Lila Wallace Readers Digest Foundation and The Geron Fantasy for Orchestra for the Charleston Symphony with a grant award from Meet the Composer. He has appeared as guest soloist and composer with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Baltimore, Atlanta, Louisville, New Jersey and Richmond Symphonies Orchestras. He is the recipient of the 2007 and 2004 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship Grant. In 2002, Mr. Burrs was the first composer ever to receive the National Opera Association’s coveted Legacy Award for his American opera, Vanqui. Mr. Burrs has served as artist-in-residence at major universities, colleges and arts councils throughout the United States. As an administrator Mr. Burrs has had success coordinating, fund raising and producing concert events and nonprofit organization cultural activities over the course of twenty-five years.
John A. Williams
Williams was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and his family moved to Syracuse, New York. After naval service in World War II, he graduated in 1950 from Syracuse University. He was a journalist for Ebony (his September 1963 Ebony article “Negro In Literature Today” has been singled out for particular praise), Jet, and Newsweek magazines.
His novels, which include The Angry Ones (1960) and The Man Who Cried I Am (1967), are mainly about the black experience in white America. The Man Who Cried I Am, a fictionalized account of the life and death of Richard Wright, introduced the King Alfred Plan – a fictional CIA-led scheme supporting an international effort to eliminate people of African descent. This “plan” has since been cited as fact by some members of the Black community and conspiracy theorists. Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light: A Novel of Some Probability (1969) imagines a race war in the United States. The novel begins as a thriller with aspects of detective fiction and spy fiction, before transitioning to apocalyptic fiction at the point when the characters’ revolt begins.
Luther Lewis III
Luther Lewis III is a multidisciplinary artist, singer, teacher and director within Classical Voice/Opera, Theater and Visual Art and is currently the Crane Directing Fellow at Opera Columbus. He has appeared with several major Opera companies in supporting and chorus roles including Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cincinnati Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opera de Montreal, as well as international tours in Austria, France, Germany, Israel, South America, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. In 2018, he presented an Art Gallery Concert featuring his illustrations of legendary African American Opera singers at the iconic Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois in collaboration with Chicago Opera Theater. Luther has studied Vocal Performance at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the University of Kentucky as well as Visual Art Studio at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Antoine T. Clark
Larry Griffin is well known and widely respected among Central Ohio’s music educators and conductors. He is the founder and Artistic Director of Capriccio Columbus, a 70-member community choir. Formed in 2006, the choir has sung with regional orchestras, national tours of “Game of Thrones” and “Rocktopia”, and at numerous charity events. The group has performed in New York City (Carnegie Hall), Costa Rica, Ireland and Scotland, and plans to participate in the Salzburg Choral Festival in July 2023.
From 1991 until his retirement in 2013, he was director of choral music at Worthington Kilbourne High School. He formerly led the St Charles Preparatory School’s men’s ensemble and the Mansfield Symphony Chorus. He currently teaches voice privately in his home studio and served as music director for Opera Columbus’ “The Journey”.
A past president of the Ohio Music Education Association, Griffin has served in many OMEA events as an adjudicator, director of honors choir festivals and clinician. In 2005, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra presented him with the Secondary School Music Educator Award. Having served a number of Greater Columbus churches as a choral director and soloist, currently he serves as bass section leader and soloist at St Mary’s Catholic Church in German Village.
Griffin holds a Master of Music degree from The Ohio State University, where he studied conducting with Hilary Apfelstadt. He received his Bachelor of Music Education degree from Eastern Kentucky University, and has done graduate work at Ohio State and Wright State University.
Esther A. Sands
Esther Abena Sands is a Ghanaian American designer. Early exposure to diverse cultures in film and art as a child helped shape a love of stories and fashion. As her passion and curiosity for learning grew, she became self-taught through observation, experimentation and practice. As an adolescent, she would sit in the market, watching cobblers and seamstresses work and craft.
After relocating to the United States as a teen, Esther became exposed to the creative aesthetics of cosplay. A way to bring stories from movies, anime and videogames to life through character interpretation.
Her work is filled with cultural, traditional, movie and anime inspirations. She believes we are all heroes of our own cinematic universes and what we wear everyday is an interpretation of where we’ve been, where we are, where we are going and of our life experiences. Clothing can be a representation of self and of individuality.
*Opera Columbus debut
+Opera Columbus/Capital University Resident Artist
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