New York City Opera  performs stonewall

NYC Opera's 'Stonewall' makes trans history

May 30, 2019 - 11:25 am

The New York City Opera is the only opera company in the world that has committed itself to performing at least one LGBTQ-themed work each season. Stonewall, which debuts June 21, is the third in this series. Stonewall is also the first original LGBTQ-opera commissioned by this or any other opera company (the two previous operas in the company's series were adaptations of works from stage and screen). It will also be the first opera with an openly transgender character, as well as the first with songs written specifically for a particular transgender singer (Liz Bouk). The company is taking a big risk, as it has still not entirely recovered from a 2013 bankruptcy, but is quite literally banking on Stonewall both to help make it once again a going concern and to broaden and strengthen its ties with both the LGBTQ community and the opera community in general.

What's it all about?

Stonewall is set in the Greenwich Village dance club of the same name in June, 1969. An altercation at the club between police and members of the gay and lesbian community quickly escalated into a riot. The opera focuses on people who were caught up in the event, which is widely considered to be the spark that ignited the LGBTQ community's own civil rights movement. Each of the three acts revolves around the four principal characters and their experiences that night. One is a transgender woman who goes out that evening to celebrate the anniversary of her transition. Another is a lesbian woman who is teased, taunted and otherwise harassed daily at her job. There is also a gay male teacher who has been fired from his position at a Catholic school and a female impersonator.   

“Not suitable for all ages”

Stonewall is unique in many ways and for many reasons. One of them is that this may be the first opera ever performed that comes with a “not suitable for all ages” rating. That rating appears on the New York City Opera's website, along with the warning that this opera has “strong sexual content, partial nudity, mature themes and language.”

Stonewall, Rose Theater at Lincoln Center, June 21-28,

-- by Mark McLaughlin

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