Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Duke Ellington Opera "Queenie Pie" Playing In Chicago

Karen Marie Richardson portrays the entrepreneurial Madame C.J. Walker
"Any definition of the Great American Songbook has to include songs identified with Duke Ellington. It’s a lengthy list that includes such gems as 'Mood Indigo,' 'Sophisticated Lady,' 'I Got It Bad' and the jazz anthem 'It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).' Often collaborating with musicians from his band, Ellington wrote hundreds of tunes that are still among the standards cherished by veteran and newly-minted jazz singers alike. But throughout his career, which began in the 1920s and ended with his death in 1974, the pianist, composer and conductor experimented with longer forms as well. A complete list of Ellington’s compositions includes long suites, quasi-symphonic pieces and sacred works. From 1962 until he died, at age 75, he wrestled with an unfinished opera titled Queenie Pie inspired by a real person, Madam C. J. Walker, the dynamic African-American entrepreneur who became a millionaire selling hair and beauty products designed for the African-American market early in the 20th century. The story, which involves an imagined encounter between Walker and a young rival, opens in the very real world of Harlem in 1930s and continues on a fantasy island where Madam Walker hopes to find a magic potion to revive her failing business. There have been assorted attempts to stage the uncompleted opera over the years: Oakland Opera Theater produced a version in 2008, and in 2009 the opera department at the University of Texas at Austin took a stab at it. Now it’s Chicago Opera Theater’s turn. The company, headed by artistic director Andreas Mitisek, presents four performances of Queenie Pie at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15, 21 and March 5 and 3 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Harris Theater." [Source] Watch a video clip after the jump.

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