Opera in Kids Tent at New Or­leans Jazz and Her­itage Fes­ti­val


Opera is as much a part of the U.S. city of New Or­leans’ AfricanAmer­i­can her­itage as jazz, said Givonna Joseph, whose troupe is bring­ing opera to the Kids Tent at the New Or­leans Jazz and Her­itage Fes­ti­val for the fourth year in a row.

The troupe was among more than 60 acts on 10 stages Sun­day at the in­field of the Fair Grounds Race Track. Jimmy Buf­fett and the Coral Reefer Band were closing the first week­end at one end of the in­field while crooner Tony Bennett, 88, and Lady Gaga, 29, closed at the other.

The fes­ti­val, which drew 435,000 fans last year, con­tin­ues Thurs­day through Sun­day.

Joseph and her daugh­ter, Aria Ma­son, formed Oper­aCre­ole in 2011, af­ter the New Or­leans Opera’s 2010 pro­duc­tion of “Porgy and Bess” brought to­gether many of the city’s African-Amer­i­can opera singers.

“We’re such an odd­ity that you have to come to the big house to find out we’re there,” she said. “I wanted to high­light work that isn’t done on the big stage — work that’s lost, or not well-known.”

In the 1800s, she said, “Opera in New Or­leans was just like pop mu­sic. It was ev­ery­where. You could walk down the street and hear the ven­dors do­ing op­er­atic arias.”

This year’s Kids Tent show fea­tured Wil­liam Grant Still, who was born in Mis­sis­sippi in 1895, grew up in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, and lived un­til 1978. Joseph cre­ated a story about him, fea­tur­ing songs from sev­eral of his op­eras “about be­ing a child or be­ing in­spired or about things you shouldn’t do.” Jazz it­self has some op­er­atic roots, Joseph noted.

She said Jelly Roll Morton, one of the fa­thers of jazz, learned clas­si­cal pi­ano and no­ta­tion, and “liked to cre­ate jazz us­ing clas­si­cal mu­sic, like Chopin.”

She said Louis Arm­strong was “a big opera fan” and loved colora- tura singing, known for elab­o­rate runs and trills. She said his scat — vo­cal im­pro­vi­sa­tion with non­sense syl­la­bles — came from his love of col­oratura as well as from his trum­pet play­ing.

“When I found he was a fan of col­oratura singing, I could hear the similarities,” she said.


(Left) Pit­bull per­forms on the Congo Square stage dur­ing the New Or­leans Jazz and Her­itage Fes­ti­val at the Fair­grounds in New Or­leans, Louisiana on Sun­day, April 26. (Right) Rumba Buena per­forms at the Congo Square Stage dur­ing the New Or­leans Jazz and Her­itage Fes­ti­val on Sun­day.


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