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Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson ‘Blue’ Named Best New Opera

The Music Critics Association of North America recognizes their opera about African American life.

NEW YORK CITY: The Music Critics Association of North America (MCANA) has announced that the 2020 Award for Best New Opera has been given to composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson for Blue. The 4th annual Best New Opera Award presentation was originally planned to take place during the MCANA Annual Meeting this month in San Francisco, which was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The award plaques will be given in person to Tesori and Thompson at a later date.

Jeanine Tesori. (Photo by Rodolfo Martinez)

“I am thrilled to receive the Best New Opera award from the MCANA,” said Tesori in a statement. “Blue celebrates the African American family, and the consequences of possibility denied. While it is my hope that this work is presented worldwide, I also pray for the day that it does not seem, as it does now, ripped from the news of our daily lives. I thank the MCANA for this honor.”

Established in 2016, the Best New Opera Award honors musical and theatrical excellence in a fully staged opera that received its world premiere in North America during the preceding calendar year. The finalists were selected from a pool of nominations submitted by MCANA members. The winner was chosen by an awards committee co-chaired by Heidi Waleson and George Loomis, and comprising Arthur Kaptainis, Rockwell, and Alex Ross. This year’s finalists included Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; and prisoner of the state by David Lang, NY Philharmonic.

Blue focuses on an African American couple living in Harlem who are filled with hope and fear for their activist teenage son. The opera was commissioned and given its world premiere by the Glimmerglass Festival in July of 2019. It was scheduled for performances this spring and summer at the Kennedy Center (Washington National Opera) in March, Lyric Opera of Chicago in June, and Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival in July, but all of these productions have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Blue has been rescheduled for performances at the Lyric Opera of Chicago Jan. 15-23, 2021, and Minnesota Opera will present the opera Feb. 13-21, 2021.

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