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Presented By: School of Music, Theatre & Dance

The Ties That Bind: Two One-Act Operas by African-American Composers - Canceled

University Opera Theatre

All scheduled performances are cancelled. Ticket holders can obtain a refund, exchange their tickets for a different production, or donate the cost of their tickets to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, depending on their preference. We ask that all ticket holders contact us via a form at by March 31st—all remaining tickets after this date will be automatically refunded. Any questions regarding refunds, exchanges, or donations can be directed to

Bonds are broken in this evening of two rarely performed, one-act operatic gems, written by Black American composers.

“Rise for Freedom” composed by Adolphus Hailstork, with libretto by David Gonzalez
And “Highway 1, U.S.A.” composed by William Grant Still, with libretto by Verna Arvey

The Department of Voice and the University Philharmonia Orchestra
Music Direction by Kirk Severtson
Stage Direction by Danielle Wright
Sung in English

“Highway 1, U.S.A.” is an intimate family drama that pits brother against brother in a battle about love, jealousy, and greed. Composed by William Grant Still (1895-1978) with a libretto by his wife, Verna Arvey (1910-1987), “Highway 1” received its premiere in 1963 and was rarely staged until it was produced by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2021. This one-act opera by the “Dean of African-American Composers” features a sweeping score that brilliantly blends elements of Romanticism, blues, and musical theatre with a classical musical structure.

“Rise for Freedom: The John P. Parker Story” receives its academic premiere with this production, its second ever. Composer Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941) and librettist David Gonzalez (b. 1956) adapted this dramatic rendering of the life of John P. Parker, an enslaved person who earned enough money to buy his freedom. He went on to establish a foundry in Ripley, Ohio, and held three known patents as an inventor, all while working as an Underground Railroad conductor to ferry hundreds of people escaping from slavery across the Ohio River from Northern Kentucky. “Rise for Freedom” was commissioned in 2007 by the Cincinnati Opera.

Hailstork received his Ph.D. in Composition from Michigan State University and is a professor of composition at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Librettist Gonzalez is a professional storyteller, poet, playwright, and musician who has been a Fellow of the Joseph Campbell Foundation and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. He earned his doctorate in Music Therapy from New York University.

Together, these different operas highlight voices that are underrepresented in the operatic canon. This double bill will run approximately 2 hours, and will be sung in English.

Please Note: Due to new U-M health and safety guidance, recently updated in January 2022, this indoor, ticketed performance requires audience members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or present a negative PCR Covid test within 72 hrs of the performance. By purchasing this performance you agree to adhere to these guidelines and any other health and safety measures already currently in place (such as wearing a face mask in our venues and auditioriums for the duration of the performance as well as a screening for symptoms through the ResponsiBlue app).


  • Cancelled

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