Little Rock native William Grant Still was the leading African American composer of classical music throughout most of the 20th century. In 1949, his composition, Troubled Island became the first grand opera written by an African American to be produced by a major company. It premiered with the New York City Opera in 1949.
This weekend, Opera in the Rock is presenting a rare fully-staged production of Troubled Island. It will be at the UA Pulaski Tech’s Center for Humanities and Arts on the evening of May 4 (7:30pm) and afternoon of May 6 (3:00pm). The work is being performed by a cast of local and regional operatic talent.
The libretto for the opera was written by Langston Hughes and Verna Arvey. The story is set in Haiti in 1791. Jean Jacques Dessalines declares himself emperor of an independent Haiti. Corruption, revolution and assassination ensue.
Ronald Jensen-McDaniel is singing the role of Dessalines. Others in the cast include Jordan Murdock, Jannette Robinson, Charles Moore, Nisheedah Golden, Anthony K. Valley, and Chris Straw.
Arlene Biebesheimer is the artistic director of Opera in the Rock.