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Robert O'Hara on Directing the Malcolm X Opera at the Met

Playbill News

When X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X has its long-awaited Metropolitan Opera premiere this month—in a newly revised and expanded version—it touches down in a visionary, Afrofuturism-inspired staging by Robert O’Hara, the heralded director behind Broadway’s Slave Play. Baritone Will Liverman, one of the company’s leading young stars, portrays the legendary civil rights leader, with Kazem Abdullah on the podium.

“I think he’d be spinning in his grave,” says director Robert O’Hara when asked how Malcolm X would react to the Met premiere of Anthony Davis’s opera, which runs until December 2. “I don’t know if he would be spinning to the left or to the right. But I think that he would be asking, ‘Who are these people who have the audacity to put my story on an operatic stage?’”

Whatever he might think, Malcolm X— who was born Malcolm Little, died el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, and went by Detroit Red in between—would certainly not recognize himself by sight. Baritone Will Liverman, returning after his triumphant 2021 turn in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, looks nothing like the man he is set to portray. For O’Hara, this seeming disconnect between popular images of Malcolm X (tall, gray suit, skinny tie, thick-rimmed glasses) and his theatrical embodiment is less an obstacle than an opportunity. “There’s no reason for you to be playing Malcolm X,” he jokes to Liverman...READ MORE



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