The opera “I Can’t Breathe” will premiere in Knoxville
“I Can’t Breathe” will have its world premiere at the Beck Center on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Knoxville, Tenn. – Marble City Opera will perform an original opera titled ‘I Can’t Breathe’ at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center at 7.30pm on Thursday – the world premiere of the show.
It’s about social justice and was inspired after the creators witnessed cases of police brutality. The show will follow six characters and focus on different aspects of the black community.
The piece was written by Brandon J. Gibson and composed by Leslie Burr. It has been in the works for over a year.
“It took me a year and three months, literally 8 to 12 hours a day, to write the work,” Burr said.
The music is an intense composition that follows each character’s emotion throughout the story, taking the audience on journeys through their personal grief and celebrations over the course of the plot.
Burr has said he generally gets attached to the music. In this project, he says he became attached to the characters.
“It hits so close to home in so many different ways,” Burr said. “I found that with each of the characters, not only were they compelling, but they also had a direct relationship with me, and I with them.”
The opera stems from the murder of George Floyd, 46, in police custody on May 25, 2020. For Burr and Gibson, it brought to light an issue that has been going on for decades.
“When that day came it was kind of the same. But it was even more alive due to the fact that he was on TV,” Burr said.
Kathryn Frady is the executive artistic director of “I Can’t Breathe”. She too remembers the day George Floyd died.
“I was speechless, angry, you know, sad, upset. And then and I felt helpless,” Frady said. “I felt very emotional about the situation and wondered what I could do.”
Frady believes that art, like opera, holds a lot of power. He has the ability to show different perspectives and allow the audience to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
“Any type of performance experience has the ability to change hearts and minds. And so I think that’s a great way to approach the subject, and I hope people come away feeling like they can make a difference,” Frady said.
Burr hopes the opera will help people understand the black way of life.
“This is not an opera meant to be guilt-ridden, not even remotely. Rather, it is about capturing the humanistic aspects of what we live with as African Americans and how we embrace life” , Burr said.
Burr has been a composer of several operas in the past; however, this one has a special meaning for him.
“Every day becomes another confirmation that this is something of great significance. And for me, I’m very proud to be associated with it,” Burr said.
The opera house is sold out for all in-person viewings of Knoxville performances. However, if you want to see the opera, you have the option of buying tickets and watching a stream online.
Two performances will have streaming options on Friday and Saturday 7:30 p.m.
If you wish to purchase tickets, you can do so here.