Fire Shut Up in My Bones

Met Opera Live in HD

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New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor
James Robinson / Camille A. Brown Co-Directors
Allen Moyer Set Designer
Paul Tazewell Costume Designer
Christopher Akerlind Lightning Designer
Greg Emetaz Projection Designer
Camille A. Brown Choreographer

Angel Blue Soprano
Latonia Moore Soprano
Will Liverman Baritone

In order of vocal appearance:

Will Liverman Charles
Angel Blue Destiny, Loneliness, Greta
Latonia Moore Billie
Walter Russell III Char’es-Baby
Cheikh M’Baye William
Oleode Oshotse Nathan
Ejiro Ogodo James
Judah Taylor Robert
Ryan Speedo Green Uncle Paul
Norman Garrett Foreman
Terrence Chin-Loy Chicken Plucker
Briana Hunter Ruby
Chauncey Packer Spinner
Denisha Ballew Verna
Marguerite Mariah Jones Young Lovely
Chris Kenney Chester
Cierra Byrd Bertha
Donovan Singletary Pastor
Briana Hunter Woman Sinner
Calvin Griffin Adult Robert
Terrence Chin-Loy Adult William
Errin Duane Brooks Adult Nathan
Norman Garrett Adult James
Brittany Renee Evelyn
Donovan Singletary Kaboom
David Morgans Sanchez Pledge
Chase Taylor Nash

Women Denisha Ballew, Christine Jobson, Jasmine Muhammad, Kimberli Render, Nicole Mitchell, Karmesha Peake


Terence Blanchard
Fire Shut Up in My Bones
Opera in three acts

Libretto by Kasi Lemmons, based on the book by Charles M. Blow

Act I
Charles Blow, age 20, drives down a Louisiana backroad with a gun in the passenger seat. Destiny sings to him, calling him back to his childhood home. He begins reliving memories from his childhood. Charles’s seven-year-old self, Char’es-Baby, talks to his mother, Billie. He is desperate for affection, but Billie is too frazzled to give him the validation that he craves. They are dirt poor. Billie works in a chicken factory, but she dreams of Char’es-Baby getting a good education and escaping their town. Her husband, Spinner, is a womanizing spendthrift. When she hears that he’s flirting with other women, she confronts him at gunpoint. Billie doesn’t shoot, but she tosses Spinner out. Billie and her five sons move in with Uncle Paul. Char’es-Baby dreams of a different life, collecting “treasure” from the junkyard while Loneliness sings to him. One day, his cousin Chester comes to visit. When Chester sexually abuses him, he is too horrified and ashamed to say anything. Adult Charles begins to weep as he recoils from these memories, while Destiny reminds him that there is no escape.

Act II
As Charles grows into a teenager, he is full of confusion and rage, and tormented by phantom terrors. He attends a church service in which the pastor is baptizing people, promising that God can wipe all sins clean. Charles decides to get baptized, but it fails to free him of his inner demons. Charles tries to talk to his brothers, but they refuse to engage in any “soft talk.” Loneliness reappears, promising to be his lifelong companion. Evelyn, a beautiful young girl, interrupts Charles’s reverie. Their chemistry is clear. Charles feels a new sense of independence and is finally ready to strike out on his own; Grambling State University has offered him a full scholarship. Billie is left alone to reflect on all that she has sacrificed for her family and wonders what might lie ahead.

At his college, Charles rushes Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, where the brothers lead an elaborate and energetic step dance. Charles and the other pledges are hazed, but he stoically takes each indignity in stride: Pain is nothing new for him. Later, he goes to a frat party and meets an attractive young woman, Greta. They begin a passionate love affair. Charles eventually shares his awful secret with Greta, only to find out that she’s still seeing someone else. Charles is left alone again. He calls home, desperate to hear his mother’s voice. To his shock, Billie tells him that Chester has come back to visit. Charles instantly decides to return home to confront Chester, gun in hand.

Charles sits in his car on the dark road, contemplating the choice lying before him. Destiny starts to sing to him once again, seductively promising to stand by him through to the bloody end. As Charles reaches his childhood home, Char’es-Baby appears, urging him to leave his bitterness behind. Charles must decide whether to exact his revenge or begin his life anew.

Synopsis reprinted courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

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