Rebecca R. Bibbs is an award-winning magazine, newspaper and online writer and editor with 25 years' experience. A journalism generalist, she has covered Mike Tyson's arrest and trial for rape as a criminal justice reporter; reviewed Mikhail Baryshnikov, Pilobolus and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as a dance critic; and profiled Indiana's first Miss America Katie Stam; country singer Wynonna; and Annie Wersching, star of the Fox program "24."
Angela M. Brown sits on the throne in Dressing Room #2 at the Cincinnati Opera House where she is performing the role of Cilla in the opera Margaret Garner. She is barely able to finish eating a banana because a succession of admirers gingerly knocks at the door to pay tribute, seek autographs or check whether she needs anything.
Cincinnati resident Kachena Richardson, a member of the chorus in her hometown production of the slave-era drama, enters bearing gifts. Brown pulls a piece of fringed yellow Kenyan cloth tie-dyed in red from a gift-wrapped box.
“Oh, honey, this is fabulous!” she exclaims.
Richardson’s role in the opera is a mixed blessing. She is a great-great granddaughter of the opera’s namesake, who was an African-American slave, and her white owner Edward Gaines. Performing the role of a slave and watching the violence done to her ancestor, who rose to fame for the murder of some of her children so they would not become slaves, was an emotionally difficult experience, Richardson explains. As she struggled with her past, Brown gave her an important piece of advice: Put all that pain into the music.
“You brought a voice to my family,” Richardson says tearfully to Brown as she hands her a tiny cloisonné box. Inside is a little soil from the Maplewood plantation in Kentucky where Garner was a slave. Tears rolling down her cheeks, Brown leans forward to hug Richardson, thanking her for the gifts.
Brown, a native of Indianapolis, is an up and coming Verdi soprano best known for her performances of the opera classic Aida. But in her heart, Margaret Garner, by Grammy Award-winning composer Richard Danielpour with a libretto by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, is her most important opera to date.
“It’s not my family per se, but it’s definitely my history,” she says. “It’s more real than anything I can sing from here on out.”
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Rebecca R. Bibbs | Contributor December 24, 2012 10:03AM
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