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Margaret Garner

March 01, 2006

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    March 01, 2006
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    Opera Carolina News

Margaret Garner

Charlotte, NC (March 1, 2006) - The highly anticipated Southeastern premiere of the historic collaboration between Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison and Grammy Award winning composer Richard Danielpour, Margaret Garner, opens April 20. Margaret Garner is on stage for 3 days only: Thursday, April 20 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, April 22 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, April 23 at 2:00 pm in the Belk Theater at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Tickets are on sale now from $15 – $92 and are available at (704) 372-1000 or operacarolina.org

This production is made possible by presenting sponsor Time Warner Cable and supporting sponsor BB&T.

Metropolitan Opera star Denyce Graves returns to Opera Carolina in the title role. The acclaimed mezzo has been part of Margaret Garner since the opera's inception, and heads a cast featuring Angela Simpson (Serena in Opera Carolina's Porgy & Bess, 2004). Behind it all is Toni Morrison, who's novel Beloved was inspired by the life of Margaret Garner. Toni Morrison shares, "The story of Margaret Garner seemed to need breadth and depth. It needed to be accompanied by music and gesture. It needed the opera, [Margaret Garner]."

The opera dramatically retells the true story of Margaret Garner, an escaped slave who, when faced with recapture, sacrificed her children rather than see them returned to the horrors of slavery. Her 1856 trial became a battle over whether she was tried for murder or the destruction of property, and touched off a national debate that highlighted the growing rift in the Union. To read the full text of the opera (libretto) and the full synopsis, please visit: operacarolina.org.

In his first opera, Grammy Award-winning composer Richard Danielpour fuses an eclectic mix of jazz-tinged melody, traditional spirituals, and modern harmony to create a sophisticated melting pot of sound. Joyous gospel choruses, serene orchestral interludes, and lyrical ballads combine to create a vibrant score, perfectly wedded to Morrison's poetic text. In the words of composer Richard Danielpour, "More than anything else, Margaret Garner is an opera that reminds us that we all belong to the same human family, and it demonstrates what can happen when we forget this fundamental truth."

Margaret Garner is on stage Thursday, April 20 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, April 22 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, April 23 at 2:00 pm in the Belk Theater at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Charlotte NC. All performances feature easy-to-read projected English titles, the Opera Carolina Chorus, The Charlotte Contemporary Ensemble, and The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Individual tickets are on sale now for $15 – $92 at (704) 372-1000 or operacarolina.org.

Conducted by Stephan Lano, and stage directed by Cynthia Stokes, this production features an internationally acclaimed creative team and cast. Recognized worldwide as one of today's most exciting vocal stars, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves continues to gather unparalleled popular and critical acclaim in performances on four continents. She has become particularly well known to operatic audiences for her portrayals of the title roles in Carmen and Samson and Delilah, which brought her to the world's great opera houses and concert halls. The combination of her rich vocalism, elegant stage presence and exciting theatrical abilities allows her to pursue a wide breadth of operatic portrayals as well as delight audiences in concert and recital appearances. Angela Renée Simpson will portray Cilla, and Eric Greene brings to life Robert Garner. Full cast listing and bios are available at operacarolina.org/Garner.:


Conductor - Stefan Lano *
Director - Cynthia Stokes *
Set Designer - Marjorie Bradley-Kellogg *
Costume Designer - Paul Tazewell *
Lighting Designer - Michael Baumgarten
Original Lighting Design & Concept - Duane Schuler
Wigs & Makeup Design - Georgianna Eberhard
Chorus Master - Jacqueline Robinson & Mark Tysinger
* Opera Carolina debut

To download images of this production please go to operacarolina.org/2005/photos/media. Current images available include production photos, artist headshots, and the Opera Carolina logo.


The story of Margaret Garner is one of the most compelling in the dark history of slavery in America. She, her husband, and four children, were the "property" of a Kentucky plantation owner. On January 28, 1856, along with a group of slaves, they stole a carriage and fled across the frozen Ohio River into the Cincinnati area. Their hiding place was soon discovered and their pursuers demanded the return of their property. Robert Garner was overpowered and dragged from the house. Margaret, declaring that she would kill herself and her children before allowing them to return to slavery, grabbed a knife and killed her little daughter; the most beloved of her children. Before she could take the life of her other children and herself, she was captured and sent to trial.

The constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, whereby citizens were compelled to assist in the capture of runaway slaves, was central to the case of Margaret Garner, as was the legal precedent for whether Margaret should be tried for the murder of her daughter, or for the destruction of property. Ultimately, she was found guilty of destruction of property and returned to bondage in Kentucky.

To abolitionists, the case illustrated the horrors of slavery. To slave owners, the seeming brutality of her act underscored their assertion to the subhuman nature of all slaves. The case of Margaret Garner was also tried in the court of public opinion, where the different arguments demonstrated nothing less than the boiling undercurrents of the coming Civil War.

To learn more about Margaret Garner visit the official website MargaretGarner.org


Opera Carolina is proud to be the only company in the South to present this new work. Because of the opera's powerful messages of freedom and courage, Opera Carolina is committed to sharing Margaret Garner with as many people in the region as possible. To deepen the effectiveness of this effort, Opera Carolina is partnering with the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and the Levine Museum of the New South to create special programming to support the performances, and to expand community participation and dialogue on the issues of artistic expression, contemporary opera, the legacy of slavery in modern society, and the historical significance of Margaret Garner to contemporary society.

Audiences are invited and encouraged to attend the following FREE sessions to learn more about the opera. For more information, please call (704) 332-7177 x209.

BELOVED Book Club Series- A comparison of the novel and the opera
Opera Carolina creates a unique book club initiative, centering on a comparison of Beloved and the libretto for Margaret Garner. Dr. Emily Seelbinder, professor at Queens University is partnering with Opera Carolina to present these special book club events. For this initiative, copies of the Margaret Garner libretto will be printed and distributed to book club members at no cost. Current presentations are scheduled at:

Sugar Creek Library - February 13 at 6:30 pm
South County Regional Library - March 2 at 7:00 pm
Joseph Beth Bookstore - March 23 at 7:00 pm (Sponsored by Skirt! Magazine)
Freedom Regional - March 27 at 7:00 pm

Other book clubs interested in Dr. Seelbinder's presentation may contact Opera Carolina at 704-332-7177 x 209. Available on a first come first serve basis. FREE

Presented with the support of the Foundation for the Carolinas Social Capital Fund.

The Mourner's Bench: Reflections of a Slave Mother
This compelling one-woman show is a dramatic presentation by Alicia Williams exploring Margaret Garner's attempts to struggle with her plight. Free. Presentations at the following library branches:

South County Regional - March 7 at 7:00 pm
Beatties Ford Road - March 14 at 7:00 pm
Belmont Center - March 21 at 7:00 pm
University Regional - March 28 at 7:00 pm
Independence Regional - April 4 at 7:00 pm

Presented with the support of American Express.


Dr. Sally McMillen, professor at Davidson College, compares the historical fact of Margaret Garner's life to the storyline of the opera. This presentation is scheduled for the following library branches:

Davidson Library - April 4 at 7:00 pm
Morrison Regional - April 5 at 7:00 pm


For each opera production, Opera Carolina presents free previews featuring local lecturers with musical excerpts, historical perspective, and a synopsis of the opera.

Borders at Southpark - April 9 at 2:00 pm
Davidson College - April 19 at 12:00 pm

If you can't make one of these previews, don't miss the preview 45 minutes prior to the performances on the Mezzanine level (one level above the street) or visit the Opera Carolina website operacarolina.org/garner. Call (704) 332-7177 x209 for directions or questions. In order to appreciate our multi-dimensional and elaborate performances, we encourage both newcomers and opera aficionados alike to attend our community previews and visit our website: operacarolina.org.


The following programs are at ImaginOn: the Joe and Joan Martin Center. Please call (704) 973-2780 for more information.

The Freedom Box Photo Collage Exhibit
April 1 - 30 The Loft
Photo collages created by high school students depicting racial integration and segregation in their lives. An extension of the Light Factory exhibit ending March 17. (Middle & high school students)

Quilting a Path to Freedom
April 2 The Round 2:00pm
Patterned on an Underground Railroad quilt, we will share stories of the path to freedom hidden in quilts and make quilting squares. (Elementary School students)

Tales of Family and Freedom
April 2 – 8 The Round
Stories of slave families and the quest for freedom in children's books and music. (Pre-school students)

Slave Quilt Pieces Scavenger Hunt
April 2 – 8 ImaginOn
Patterned on an Underground Railroad quilt, children use quilt symbols to navigate through the building to a destination representing freedom. (All ages)

Living History Enactment of Slave Life by "Voices from the Past"
April 8 The Courtyard 1:00 - 5:00 pm
Using costumes, props, vignettes, stories and music, historical interpreters will set up a contraband camp of displaced newly freed slaves. They will provide hands-on activities, interactive sing-alongs, and glimpses into daily camp-life with period correctness. (Families)

A day of Tears- A novel in dialog
April 17 The Round 7:00 pm
A readers' theatre-style reading of Julius Lester's powerful novel giving voice to many of the people who were affected by the largest slave auction in recorded history. Over three days in 1859, 429 men, women and children were dispersed from the plantation in order to pay off the owner's gambling debt. The dialog tells the first-person stories from many points of view: slaves who were sold, loved ones left behind, the slave-seller, his children, his ex-wife, and an abolitionist who assists in the escape of several slaves. (Middle & high school students)


All performances are in the Belk Theater of the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center at 130 N. Tryon Street in Charlotte, and feature easy-to-read English titles projected above the stage. Thursday performance is at 7:30 pm, Saturday performance is at 8:00 pm and Sunday matinee performance is at 2:00 pm. Individual tickets from $15 - $92 are on sale at the Performing Arts Center Box Office at (704) 372-1000, or online at operacarolina.org. The Box Office is located in Founders Hall in the Bank of America Corporate Center and is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; half-hour complimentary parking is available to Box Office customers in the Bank of America Parking Garage on College Street.


Student offer: Student rush, one hour prior to curtain all remaining seats in the house are $10 or a student can purchase a seat anywhere, anytime for 10% off the retail ticket price.
Group discount offer: Purchase 10 tickets and receive 10% discount, plus one free ticket. For group arrangements, call (704) 332-7177 x210.


Founded in 1948 as the Charlotte Opera Association by a small group of volunteers, Opera Carolina today is the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas with an operating budget of over $3.1 million. The mission of Opera Carolina is to inspire and entertain the region's diverse community through the presentation of excellent Opera, Operetta, Music Theater, and Education & Outreach programs that elevate the quality of life in the Carolinas.

Opera Carolina is a community resource with a commitment to artistic excellence and community service. Opera Carolina is supported by the Arts & Science Council-Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Inc., and the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of North Carolina and the National Endowment for the Arts. Opera Carolina is a member of OPERA America.