In the 1800’s New Orleans reigned as “The Opera Capital” of North America, and this past week the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park welcomed to a full house “Opera Creole.” Performed by a talented ensemble of New Orleans’ finest operatic singers, Opera Creole’s founder, Givonna Joseph believes that classical music is the shared heritage of all New Orleanians, with her goal to fulfill that mission by having opera sung once again in the language of the Creoles.
So why perform operatic works at a National Park that is dedicated to early jazz? Joseph says “Opera was part of the incubator that led to N.O. jazz in New Orleans, and free people of color were a big part of the local opera scene in the 19th century.” She points to jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton, who was passionate and received training in the classics, and says “Louis Armstrong loved coloratura singing.” “Usually, when the history of African Americans is discussed, we hear mostly about slavery and its legacy. But our role in the building of America has been multi-dimensional, Joseph said. “This music is part of our history, too. This is who we are.”