A Story of the Human Heart

By Tazewell Thompson

Director, Lost in the Stars

 

THOMPSON_TazewellWhen I first encountered the novel Cry, the Beloved Country in high school, the searing, emotional force of the book impacted me in very hard, personal, and meaningful ways. The world outside and within my schoolroom window was filled with rage and outrage. It was the height of the tumultuous civil rights movement. I identified very closely with the brutal mistreatment of South African blacks in the novel, as day after day I read about the beatings and horrific attacks, the bombings, the unjustified incarceration of my people, the humiliation of children being denied the schools of their choice, and the assassinations of the ordinary and the extraordinary martyrs. Today I revisit Alan Paton’s novel and the opera it inspired with not so much cleansed eyes and an open heart of forgiveness and understanding — although there is that — but with a deeper sense of how these works magnify how far we, as a race of ever hopeful people, have come. In the years since these works were written, we have seen the election of a black president, the Voting Rights Act, women’s liberation, the freeing of Nelson Mandela, the dissolution of apartheid, and the legalization of gay marriage. The book and the opera have become more significant to me as great testaments of the power of art and its ability to confront injustice.

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Spotlight on Ariana Wehr, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Ariana returns to the role of Gretel in WNO’s Hansel and Gretel this month.

Wehr Ariana Headshot July 2015Where were you born? Did you grow up in a musical household?

I was born in Brazil and then adopted by dairy farmers in Indiana. My family likes music but no one is particularly musical. My parents and siblings played instruments in high school but they all sing along to the radio.

Is that where you consider “home” today?

Even though I moved around a lot as a kid I still consider Batesville, Indiana, home.

When did you first know you wanted to sing opera?

After attending Interlochen Arts Camp the summer before my senior year of high school, I was encouraged to pursue opera in college. It was my first indication that I kind of knew what I was doing singing-wise because I am from a small town and I had no way of knowing how I stacked up.

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