Virginia Opera and Richmond Symphony have made a thrilling announcement that the world-renowned mezzo-soprano, Denyce Graves, will be joining the creative team as the Stage Director for "Loving v. Virginia." Graves, a legitimate superstar in the opera world, has dazzled audiences on some of the most impressive stages globally with her mesmerizing performances as a singer. More recently, she has ventured into stage-directing, showcasing her versatile talents and leaving her mark on productions at esteemed companies like Minnesota Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, and Portland Opera.
Graves will now lend her visionary expertise to the early stages of developing this groundbreaking new work alongside Composer Damien Geter and Librettist Jessica Murphy Moo. "Loving v. Virginia" is a momentous operatic retelling of the historic United States Supreme Court case that revolved around the interracial marriage of Mildred and Richard Loving. Back in 1958, the Lovings faced imprisonment for marrying each other, as their union was illegal in Virginia due to the Racial Integrity Act of 1924. However, their conviction was ultimately overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 1967, marking a significant victory for civil rights in the country. Notably, this landmark case served as a precedent in the 2015 decision Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage.
The premiere production of "Loving v. Virginia" is scheduled to take place in April 2025, and it is co-commissioned by Virginia Opera and the Richmond Symphony. Ensuring the artistic integrity of this world premiere is of utmost importance, and having Denyce Graves as the Stage Director adds a crucial and influential voice to the Creative Team. She will complement the talents of Damien and Jessica, contributing to the comprehensive preparation for the highly anticipated premiere in 2025.
In the spirit of openness and community engagement, the process of creating this poignant work involves a series of workshops. In November 2022, the libretto workshop and public reading took place, setting the stage for further development. Partnering with the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU, the upcoming workshop will feature the piano-vocal score of the first act of the opera, allowing the Creative Team to fine-tune the score with principal singers, chorus, and pianist. These workshops present a rare opportunity for the public to participate in the artistic journey, and two free public programs have been arranged in August 2023 at the ICA at VCU in Richmond and the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk. These events are open to all, and reservations can be made through vaopera.org/events.
The collaborative nature of this project is remarkable, and Peggy Kriha Miller, General Director, and CEO of Virginia Opera, highlights the significance of a "home-grown" endeavor that tells a uniquely Virginian story. Richmond Symphony's Executive Director, Lacey Huszcza, echoes the excitement of bringing together exceptional talent like Damien, Jessica, and Denyce in creating "Loving v. Virginia."
The support for the commissioning and production of this work has been generously provided by Altria, OPERA America's 2022 Repertoire Development Grant, and a special recognition award from the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Individuals keen on supporting this significant project can join the "Commissioning Club" to gain exclusive access to workshops, the creative team, the cast, and other membership benefits.
Denyce Graves' illustrious career as a mezzo-soprano has earned her unparalleled popular and critical acclaim, with captivating appearances as Carmen and Dalila in "Samson et Dalila" in some of the world's most renowned opera houses. Her recordings of notable opera roles have been widely praised, cementing her place as an operatic superstar of the 21st century. Graves is also the Artistic Director and Founder of The Denyce Graves Foundation, dedicated to promoting equity and inclusion in American classical vocal arts by championing hidden musical figures of the past and uplifting young artists from diverse backgrounds with world-class talent.
With such a formidable team of talent and dedicated support, "Loving v. Virginia" promises to be a momentous and emotionally resonant production that will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the opera world and the hearts of its audiences.