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Terence Blanchard

Champion and Fire Shut Up in My Bones

Featuring the E-Collective and

Turtle Island Quartet

Visuals by Andrew F. Scott

Justin Austin, baritone

Adrienne Danrich, soprano

Sun Apr 6 | 3PM

Event details

Blanchard made history in 2021 as the first Black composer to premiere an original opera at the Metropolitan Opera. Fire Shut up in My Bones took the world by storm, and then he did it again in 2023 with another groundbreaking hit, Champion. A collaboration with Los Angeles Opera, The Soraya commissioned a world premiere of selections from both operas performed by Blanchard himself. The American trumpeter and film composer leads his own E-Collective and Turtle Island Quartet with baritone Justin Austin and soprano Adrienne Danrich.

LA Opera Off Grand – Promotional Partner

Sun Apr 6 | 3PM

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Terence Blanchard

Champion and Fire Shut Up in My Bones

Featuring the E-Collective and

Turtle Island Quartet

Visuals by Andrew F. Scott

Justin Austin, baritone

Adrienne Danrich, soprano

Sun Apr 6 | 3PM

Media

About the Artist

NEA Jazz Master, Two-time Oscar nominee and six-time Grammy-winner Terence Blanchard has been a consistent artistic force for making powerful musical statements concerning painful American tragedies – past and present.

From his expansive work composing the scores for almost 20 Spike Lee projects over three decades, ranging from the documentary When the Levees Broke to the latest Lee film, Da 5 Bloods, Blanchard has interwoven beautiful melodies that created strong backdrops to human stories. Blanchard received an Oscar nomination for his original score for Da 5 Bloods in 2021 which marked his second nomination. Blanchard previously received an Oscar nomination for his original score for Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. Blanchard becomes only the second Black composer to be nominated twice in the original score category, duplicating Quincy Jones’ feat from 1967’s In Cold Blood and 1985’s The Color Purple.

For One Night in Miami… which marked Regina King’s feature directorial debut and premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, the Academy Award winning actress tapped the talents of Blanchard as did Gaz Alazraki, the director of Father of the Bride which debuted on HBO Max. Some of Blanchard’s other film and television credits include Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, 25th Hour and Inside Man; Kasi Lemmons’ films, Eve’s Bayou and Harriet; George Lucas’ Red Tails; the critically acclaimed drama series Perry Mason starring Matthew Rhys with episodes directed by Tim Van Patten which debuted on HBO in June 2020, the National Geographic limited series Genius: Aretha which premiered in March 2021, HBO’s NYC Epicenters 9/11 – 2021 ½ documentary miniseries produced and directed by Spike Lee which premiered in August 2021, the Apple TV+ series Swagger which debuted in October 2021 and Apple TV’s docuseries They Call Me Magic which debuted on April 22, 2022 and for which Blanchard received his second Emmy nomination.

More recently, Blanchard wrote the original score for The Woman King directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood starring Viola Davis which premiered on September 16, 2022. Blanchard also arranged and produced songs for the upcoming feature A Jazzman’s Blues written, directed, and produced by Tyler Perry. In addition, Blanchard wrote the original score for the upcoming Apple TV+ documentary Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues directed by Sacha Jenkins and produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Documentaries, released in September during the Toronto International Film Festival.

Blanchard has composed his second opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, based on the memoir of celebrated writer and The New York Times columnist Charles Blow. The libretto was written by Kasi Lemmons and commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis where it premiered in June 2019. The New York Times has called Blanchard’s opera “inspiring,” “subtly powerful” and “a bold affecting adaptation of Charles Blow’s work.” The Metropolitan Opera premiered Fire Shut Up in My Bones on September 27, 2021 to open their 2021-22 season in New York, making it the first opera composed by an African American composer to premiere at the Met. Blanchard’s first opera, Champion also premiered to critical acclaim in 2013 at OTSL and starred Denyce Graves with a libretto from Pulitzer Prize Winner, Michael Cristofer. Champion was staged at the Met in April 2023, followed up a restaging of Fire Shut Up In My Bones in May 2024 due to record-setting box office & huge critical acclaim.

With his current jazz quintet, The E-Collective, featured on the score to BlacKkKlansman with a 96-piece orchestra, Blanchard delivered “a soaring, seething, luxuriant score,” The New York Times. In Vice Magazine, Blanchard elaborates, “In BlacKkKlansman it all became real to me. You feel the level of intolerance that exists for people who ignore other people’s pain. Musically, I can’t ignore that. I can’t add to that intolerance. Instead, I have to help people heal from it.”

In his thirtieth year as a recording leader, Blanchard delivers Absence, a masterwork of sonic zest in collaboration with his longtime E-Collective band and the acclaimed Turtle Island Quartet which received Grammy nominations in November 2021 for Best Instrumental Jazz Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for Blanchard for this year’s Grammys. It may seem like an irregular pairing, but Blanchard discovered that the quartet proved a perfect fit. “Obviously I’ve worked with strings in my career,” he says. “But Turtle Island has reimagined the language for the string quartet. It’s extremely unique, and what they do is brilliant. Playing together, it’s like a chamber jazz ensemble.”

Recorded in February 2020 just before the Covid-19 lockdowns, Absence started out as a project to show gratitude to Wayne Shorter. “I knew that Wayne wasn’t feeling well at the time, so I wanted to honor him to let him know how much he has meant to me,” says Blanchard who today lives in Los Angeles as well as in his native New Orleans. “When you look at my own writing, you can see how much I’ve learned from Wayne. He mastered writing compositions starting with a simple melody and then juxtaposing it against the harmonies that come from a different place to make it come alive in a different light.”

Regarding his consistent attachment to artistic works of conscience, Blanchard confesses, “You get to a certain age when you ask, ‘Who’s going to stand up and speak out for us?’ Then you look around and realize that the James Baldwins, Muhammad Alis and Dr. Kings are no longer here…and begin to understand that it falls on you. I’m not trying to say I’m here to try to correct the whole thing, I’m just trying to speak the truth.” In that regard, he cites unimpeachable inspirations. “Max Roach with his ‘Freedom Now Suite,’ John Coltrane playing ‘Alabama,’ even Louis Armstrong talking about what was going on with his people any time he was interviewed. Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter who live by their Buddhist philosophy and try to expand the conscience of their communities. I’m standing on all their shoulders. How dare I come through this life having had the blessing of meeting those men and not take away any of that? Like anybody else, I’d like to play feel good party music but sometimes my music is about the reality of where we are.”

Justin Austin, baritone

Praised in Opera News as “a gentle actor and elegant musician” and in The Wall Street Journal for his “mellifluous baritone,” baritone Justin Austin has been performing professionally since the age of four. Born in Stuttgart, Germany, to professional opera singer parents, Mr. Austin began his singing career as a boy soprano performing at venues such as Teatro Real, Bregenzer Festspiele, Lincoln Center, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. While working with directors such as Götz Friedrich and Tazewell Thompson, he was able to realize early on his love for music and performance.

As this year’s Marian Anderson Vocal Award winner, Mr. Austin returns this fall to open the Metropolitan Opera season as the Motorcycle Cop in the company’s premiere of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking in a highly anticipated production directed by Ivo van Hove and conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He also returns to the Washington National Opera, making his role debut as Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette, and Lyric Opera of Chicago as Young Emile in the company’s premiere of Terrence Blanchard’s Champion. He sings the title role in Barber of Seville at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, before returning to the role of Thomas McKeller in a full-length debut of Damien Geter and Lia Palmer’s American Apollo at Des Moines Metro OperaIn recital, Mr. Austin tours with pianist Howard Watkins, giving recitals at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall, the Longy School of Music with Celebrity Series of Boston, University of Delaware with Delaware’s Master Player’s Concert Series, and Atlanta’s Spivey Hall. He reprises Damien Geter’s song cycle Cotton at New York’s 92nd St. Y, having premiered it alongside Denyce Graces last season with Lyric Fest in Philadelphia and Washington Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center.

Last season, Mr. Austin returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Ned Keene in Peter Grimes before singing Carl Nielsen’s Third Symphony with the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Alan Gilbert. He sang in a concert tour of Our Song, Our Story, a tribute recital to African American operatic pioneers Jessye Norman and Marian Anderson, with music director Damien Sneed, giving performances in Tucson, St. Louis, Washington D.C., Akron, and Aspen. He also premiered a new edition by Damien Sneed of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha to critical acclaim at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in the roles of Scott Joplin/Remus. 

During the 2021-2022 season, Mr. Austin made his house debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Marcellus in the company premiere of Brett Dean’s Hamlet. He joined Lyric Opera of Chicago covering the role of Riolobo in Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas, also making his house and role debuts as Charles in Fire Shut Up In My Bones, replacing an ill colleague on a few days notice. He starred as George Armstrong in Lynn Nottage’s and Ricky Ian Gordon’s Intimate Apparel at Lincoln Center, for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, and joined Des Moines Metro Opera as Thomas McKeller in Damien Geter and Lila Palmer’s American Apollo. In addition, he returned to Carnegie Hall as the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Oratorio Society of New York, joined the New York Festival of Song for their debut concert at Little Island in New York City, joined the Cecilia Chorus at Carnegie Hall as the baritone soloist in Margaret Bonds’ Ballad of the Brown King, and presented a solo recital at the Park Avenue Armory with pianist Howard Watkins.

In the 2020-2021 season, Mr. Austin was featured in concert with the Metropolitan Opera, Mistral Music, Glimmerglass Festival, Opera Maine, Voices of Ascension, Moab Music Festival, and New York Festival of Song. He also starred as Captain Macheath in a film adaptation of Weill’s The Threepenny Opera produced by City Lyric Opera, made his debut at Washington National Opera as Thomas McKeller in the world premiere of American Apollo, and debuted at the Bard SummerScape Festival as Mordred in Chausson’s Le roi Arthus. In recital, he made debuts with Los Angeles Opera, the Hamburg International Music Festival, Lakes Area Music Festival, and Opera Saratoga, while also joining IDAGIO for online concerts at the Global Concert Hall. Mr. Austin had also been scheduled to join the Metropolitan Opera as The Novice’s Friend in Billy Budd.

Highlights of previous seasons include solo debuts at Carnegie Hall, the Glimmerglass Festival, the Strathmore Music Center, and with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Copland House, Bayerische Staatsoper, and Lincoln Center. In the 2019-2020 season, Mr. Austin made his return to the New York Festival of Song at the Kaufmann Music Center and sang the leading role of Older Jim in Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied at the Penn Square Music Festival. He had been scheduled to return to the Bayrerische Staatsoper for his role debut as Mel in Michael Tippett’s The Knot Garden and as Bello in the revival of La fanciualla del West. Mr. Austin was a Resident Artist at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and during the summer of 2018, remained with the company as a solo artist, featured in concert, recital, and on the mainstage singing the role of Cal in the award-winning production of Marc Blitzstein’s Regina, directed by James Robinson and conducted by Stephen Lord. During the summer of 2016, Mr. Austin created the role of Pyarelel Kaul in the critically acclaimed world premiere of Jack Perla’s and Rajiv Joseph’s Shalimar the Clown at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and was featured on the commercial recording of the work.

As a multifaceted musician, Mr. Austin performs a wide range of repertoire, from jazz, R&B, and musical theatre, to opera and oratorio. He has collaborated with multiple groups and artists such as Aretha Franklin, The Boys Choir of Harlem, Mary J. Blidge, Elton John, Lauryn Hill, The Roots, 30 Seconds to Mars, John Cale, Ricky Ian Gordon, Damien Sneed, Kanye West, and jazz legends Reggie Workman, Hugh Masekela, and Wynton Marsalis.

Mr. Austin strongly believes in utilizing his artistry to benefit music programs, new music projects, and community services around the world. In order to accomplish this, he works with organizations such as MEND (Meeting Emergency Needs with Dignity), QSAC (Quality Services for the Autism Community), Holt International, and St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital to construct and perform benefit concerts. The proceeds of these projects supply emergent living essentials to those in need. Inspired by the importance of new music and collaboration, Mr. Austin has performed and recorded operatic, song, and oratorio world premieres by Wynton Marsalis, Avner Finberg, M. Roger Holland, Jack Perla, Peter Andreacchi, Damien Sneed, Odeline de la Martinez, and Ricky Ian Gordon.

Justin Austin is a proud graduate of the Choir Academy of Harlem, LaGuardia Arts, Heidelberg Lied Akademie, and the Manhattan School of Music, having earned Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees. Among his accolades are awards from organizations such as The Recording Academy, NAACP, the George London Foundation, Opera Ebony, the Gerda Lissner Foundation, the Manhattan School of Music, NANM, the Choir Academy of Harlem, and LaGuardia Arts. He is under the tutelage and mentorship of Catherine Malfitano.

Adrienne Danrich, soprano

The voice of Midwest Emmy® winning Soprano Adrienne Danrich has been described as “fresh liquid-silver” and “meltingly tender in its high, floating vulnerability” by Opera News. La Cronaca del Wanderer describes her as “…soprano lirico spinto autentico”, “an authentic lyric spinto soprano.”

Ms. Danrich made her San Francisco Opera stage debut as Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen after having covered in two of the companies’ prior seasons as Elizabeth in the French version of Verdi’s Don Carlos and Liu in Puccini’s Turandot. Engagements this season include in the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s Awakenings with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

In 2006, Ms. Danrich received a commission from Cincinnati Opera to write and perform a one- woman show: This Little Light of Mine: The Stories of Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price. This production, which is a self-described live documentary, premiered in 2007 at the Cincinnati Opera and has since been presented over fifty times in various venues nationwide including The Mann Performing Arts Center as the opening act for the Philadelphia Orchestra, Next Act Theater, Antioch College, Central State University, Jackson State University, MEJ Artists Series, University of Southern Mississippi, and Wright State University, and a newly orchestrated version with the Chamber Orchestra of Laredo. PBS Milwaukee (MPTV) filmed and televised This Little Light of Mine in February 2011 and Ms. Danrich recently won a Midwest Emmy® for Outstanding Achievement for On Camera Talent as a Performer and Narrator. PBS Cincinnati (WCET) filmed a newly envisioned original televised version of the show, which aired in March 2012.

Ms. Danrich received her second commission from Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Lively Arts Concert Series in 2010. The new show, An Evening in the Harlem Renaissance, had its debut in February 2011 and was extraordinarily well received. She has since performed An Evening in the Harlem Renaissance at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in a collaborative production between Cincinnati Opera and the Taft Museum, which included students and faculty from her Alma Mater CCM. Most recently she performed the show at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and had a four show run of the show at the Next Act Theater.

Ms. Danrich made her professional debut as Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zaubeflöte with Kentucky Opera while still a part of the Artist Diploma program at University of Cincinnati College- Conservatory of Music. Her vocal finesse and musicality have garnered her much success in the Mozart repertoire. She made debuts with Sarasota Opera, Opera Pacific, and Dayton Opera as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro and her Lyric Opera of San Antonio debut as Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte. Ms. Danrich returned to the Dayton Opera stage as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Most recently, Ms. Danrich sang the role of Serena in Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess with Dayton Opera, Sister Rose in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking with Fort Worth Opera. Patience in excerpts from Paula Kimper’s Patience and Sarah with American Opera Projects, and Tamara in a reading of excerpts from Stefania de Kenessey’s developing opera Bonfire of the Vanities. Ms. Danrich has also sung the role of Rosalinda in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus with Lyric Opera of San Antonio, Azelia in Still’s Troubled Island for the William Grant Still Festival, and Mrs. Gloop in the workshop of Peter Ashe’s opera Golden Ticket. With Cincinnati Opera, she performed the High Priestess in Verdi’s Aida, Anna in Verdi’s Nabucco, Cilla in excerpts from Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner and understudied the role of Mimi in Puccini’s La boheme. Ms. Danrich also performed with Kenya Opera in various venues throughout Africa in Nairobi and Mombasa.

On the concert stage, Ms. Danrich has performed selections from Porgy and Bess with Sir Willard White and the San Francisco Symphony, the Rigoletto quartet and Porgy and Bess Suite with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Brahms Requiem with the Cape Cod Symphony, Bryan Symphony and the St. George’s Choral Society, The Ordering of Moses and selections from Die Fledermaus with the Dayton Philharmonic, Three Divas with Northern Kentucky Symphony, Bachianas Brasilieras with Fort Wayne Philharmonic and The Orchestra of St. Luke’s Outreach, Dido in Dido and Aeneas with Orchestra of St. Luke’s Outreach, John Carter’s Spiritual Cantata with Louisville Orchestra, Home for the Holidays with Cincinnati Symphony, and opera Galas with the Laredo Philharmonic, Hartt Symphony and Hamilton Fairfield Symphony.

Ms. Danrich made her soloist debut at Carnegie Hall with the New England Symphonic Ensemble in Beethoven’s Mass in C and Mozart’s Mass in G. She made her Alice Tully Hall debut with The Little Orchestra of New York performing arias and duets by Vivaldi. Ms. Danrich sang her first Beethoven Ninth Symphony with the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra and the Cape Cod Times raved that “Young soprano Adrienne Danrich…added a glistening top to the ensemble work and sang solo passages with an unforced bell-like tone that penetrated to the far corners of the hall.”

Ms. Danrich is a native of St. Louis, MO and is an alumna of Eastman School of Music and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Ms. Danrich has recorded Only Heaven by Ricky Ian Gordon with PS Classics, Age to Age with OCP Publications, Original Songs of Sacred Slumber and Solitude with Soli Deo Gloria Productions, and A Tribute to William Warfield with the Eastman School of Music

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