Stonewall: "Uplifting and eerily timely." Lisa Chavez, Jordan Weatherston Pitts, and Liz Bouk in Stonewall, New York City Opera, 2019. Photo: Sarah Shatz.

Stonewall: "Uplifting and eerily timely."

Jenna Simeonov

This month in New York, Pride Month includes a world premiere of a new opera. Stonewall, by Iain Bell and Mark Campbell commemorates the 50th anniversary of the titular uprising at a Greenwich Village club in 1969.

We spoke with Brian James Myer, who creates the role of Carlos in Stonewall, about the important timing of this new opera.

Where does this opera fit in to New York’s Pride Month celebrations in 2019?

This production of Stonewall is part of the ongoing Pride initiative that New York City Opera began a few years ago in which the company produces an LGBTQ+-themed opera during Pride Month every year. The fortunate coincidence is that 2019 marks both the 75th anniversary of New York City Opera and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, so it was a natural fit to commission a brand new work to celebrate the beginning of the modern LGBT civil rights movement. The performances coincide with Pride here in the city, including WorldPride (the first time in North America!), and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it. I hope audiences find this opera both uplifting and eerily timely, given the struggles that our community continues to face.

Liz Bouk, Jordan Weatherston Pitts, and Lisa Chavez in Stonewall, New York City Opera, 2019. Photo: Sarah Shatz.

What do you find most inspiring about this opera? What do you find most challenging?

Most inspiring to me is the sense of unity that I get from the characters in this opera. Composer Iain Bell and librettist Mark Campbell have created an incredibly varied group of people who would have probably normally never interacted, but the moment they all rally together to stand up and say “NOT ANYMORE” they become one community. It is the most moving moment for me. Bell and Campbell give the characters heart, whimsy, humor, strength, and courage, and that has made diving into this piece so rewarding.

It is also where my biggest challenge lies. My character conveys a vast array of emotion in a relatively short work, and pacing that arc, motivating each emotion, and not getting choked up by the end is demanding. It is exhilarating, exhausting, and magnificent.

What do you hope audiences will take away from this world premiere production?

I hope audiences will walk away inspired, with renewed strength to fight back against the oppression of marginalized communities. Our story is one of celebration, but it is also a reminder of how far we still have to go.

Stonewall runs June 21-28 at Jazz at Lincoln Center, 10 Columbus Circle, NY.


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