Composer Gregory Spears has been down this road before.
In June 2016, his opera “Fellow Travelers” – composed in collaboration with librettist Greg Pierce – debuted at Cincinnati Opera. The final product was a result of a process known as Opera Fusion: New Works, a collaboration between Cincinnati Opera and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. The collaboration, funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, allows composers/librettists to hear and see early stages of their creative output performed by conservatory-level performers and to share those excerpts with the public, receiving feedback and encouragement.
Cincinnati Opera is premiering not one, but two operas this summer, both of which were birthed via Opera Fusion: New Works. “Fierce,” by composer William Menefield and librettist Sheila Williams (featured in our June magazine), premiered July 6. The other new work, “Castor and Patience,” composed by Gregory Spears to a libretto by Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith, opens July 21. Both are staged at the School for Creative and Performing Arts.
In “Castor and Patience,” loosely based on the confounding, mythical tale of Castor and Pollux – twin half-brothers of different mothers – the question revolves around the topic of family legacy and inheritance. According to www.cincinnatiopera.org, “a long overdue family reunion finds two African American cousins at odds over the fate of a historic parcel of land they have inherited in the American South. Castor is eager to sell the land to pay off his crushing debt, but Patience is determined to fight off overzealous investors and preserve her family’s legacy.”
The opera finds relevance in today’s calls for racial justice, and how the tentacles of historical obstacles to Black land ownership continue to influence circumstances today.
Spears’ unique musical language blends elements of minimalism and early music with romantic lyricism, which serves as an appropriate backdrop for this timeless tale.
The opera stars baritone Reginald Smith Jr. as Castor and soprano Talise Trevigne as Patience.
Cincinnati Opera remaining season events
“Castor and Patience” by Gregory Spears and Tracy K. Smith: July 21, 28 & 30, 7:30 p.m. July 23-24, 3 p.m. (Corbett Theater, SCPA)
“Aida” By Giuseppe Verdi: July 22, 26 & 29, 7:30 p.m.; July 31, 3 p.m. (Music Hall)
“Morris and Friends” concert with Morris Robinson, bass-baritone: July 27, 7:30 p.m. (Music Hall)