The Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ commitment to commission new operas that reflect the diversity of modern American experience was stunningly reflected over the weekend in the world premiere of BMI Icon Terence Blanchard and award-winning writer librettist Kasi Lemmons’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Based on the memoir of celebrated writer and New York Times columnist Charles Blow, the commissioned piece is the fifth opera in the OTL’s New Works, Bold Voices series, which launched in 2013 with Blanchard’s first opera, Champion, also a resounding sucess.
A truly riveting story, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, follows the story of a young boy growing up in a tiny town where slavery’s legacy and violence is closely felt and relayed by the elders around him. His mother, a fiercely-driven woman who can take care of herself, however, is helpless to protect him from the sexual abuse of an older cousin. Years of tumultuous anger and self-doubts follow, until the grown man must gut-wrenchingly decide to either perpetuate the cycle of violence himself or find a way to finally move past it.