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Opera featuring the story of Malcolm X airs in Whitefish

| November 16, 2023 12:00 AM

Whitefish Theatre Co., in collaboration with the Whitefish Arts Council and the Whitefish Performing Arts Center, presents Anthony Davis’ “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X” as part of the 2023-2024 live streaming season of the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD on Saturday, Nov. 18.

This powerful, swing and jazz-inflected opera will be shown at 10:55 a.m. at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish. Approximate run time is 3 hours and 20 minutes, including two 20-minute intermissions. Tickets are sold only at the door which will open at 10:30 am. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10  for students, paid by cash or check only. 

“X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X,” Davis's groundbreaking and influential opera which premiered in 1986, arrives at the Met at long last. A musical biography of civil rights leader Malcolm X, the opera presents 12 vignettes from Malcolm X’s life directed by Tony-nominated Robert O’Hara who oversees a potent new staging and includes a brilliant libretto by esteemed writer Thulani Davis. Hailed as “riveting and poignant,” this opera imagines Malcolm as an  Everyman whose renowned story transcends time and space.  

The story begins in 1931 in Lansing, Michigan at the childhood home of Malcolm Little. The first scene takes place during a local meeting of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Improvement Association, concerning two white supremacist groups terrorizing Black people in Michigan. A policeman arrives to say that Reverend Little, Malcolm’s father, has been killed in a streetcar accident but the neighbors ponder what may really have happened. 

By 1940, Malcolm lives  

with his sister in Boston, where he is introduced to the local after-hours life. He gets involved with a group who rob a  home and is arrested and incarcerated. While in jail, he is first exposed to Islam and Elijah Muhammed, leader of the  Nation of Islam. Elijah embraces Malcolm like a son, and upon getting out of jail, Malcolm’s influence in the Nation of Islam grows as he establishes temples throughout the Northeast. As civil rights leaders such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. become active on the national scene, Malcolm explores the importance of embracing African culture in  America, including the rejection of white names, hence his own renaming as Malcolm X. 

After commenting on the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, a major schism emerges in the Nation of Islam between Malcolm and  Elijah. Malcolm leaves America for a period to take the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and travels around the African continent. He returns to Harlem a changed man with a vision of people across the world united in faith. He delivers a  speech before his newly formed group, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, despite riots in Harlem, disunity within the Nation of Islam, and threats of his assassination. The opera concludes moments before Malcolm X is assassinated at the age of 39 in the Audubon Ballroom. 

Music Director Kazem Abdullah takes the podium for this landmark premiere. Baritone Will Liverman sings Malcolm  X, alongside soprano Leah Hawkins as his mother, Louise. Mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis stars as his sister Ella,  bass-baritone Michael Sumuel sings the role of his brother Reginald, and tenor Victor Ryan Robertson stars as Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. The opera will be hosted by award-winning actress Angela Bassett, who portrayed the wife of Malcolm X in the 1992 film starring Denzel Washington. 

Food and beverage will be available for purchase during the performance. Visit www.whitefishtheatreco.org to read about the entire Met Opera Live in HD season or call 406-862-5371 for more information. This opera contains a few scenes with strong language. 

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