QUAMINO’S MAP premieres at the Chicago Opera Theater on April 23
The Chicago Opera Theatre, Chicago’s premier producer of contemporary and reimagined opera, proudly presents the world premiere of Quamino’s Map, highlighting the post-Revolutionary War years when London was the unlikely haven of thousands of black Americans. who fought for their freedom on the side of the British.
Quamino’s Map, the final production of the 2021-22 COT season, will be presented at the Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Avenue, in three performances only, April 23, 29 and May 1, 2022.
Commissioned by COT, Quamino’s Map is composed by the Belizean-born Briton Errollyn Wallento a libretto by the American playwright Deborah Brevoort. The story, loosely based on S.I. Martin’s novel Incomparable World (1997), is, in Brevoort’s words, “about the enduring allure of freedom and the ends to which people will go to achieve it”.
Quamino’s map tells the story of Juba Freeman who arrives in London after winning his freedom from slavery by fighting for the British during the War of Independence. Thrown headlong into British society, he meets Amelia Alumond, a member of the British Black Nobility, and reconnects with other ex-slaves struggling to build a new life as free men. Inspired by historical events, the opera shines a light on a forgotten corner of history – and challenges current assumptions about what life in 18th century London was like for a person of colour.
“Commissioning new works is a central tenet of the Chicago Opera Theater’s mission,” said Ashley Magnus, CEO of COT Edlis Neeson. “We are thrilled to partner with such esteemed storytellers to bring this underappreciated historic moment to Chicago audiences.”
“Errollyn Wallen is a world-class opera composer whose work needs to be heard more often on American stages,” said COT Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya. “I have been looking for an opportunity to commission Errollyn since joining the TOC and am thrilled to finally present this rigorously developed new work, written with superb playwright and librettist Deborah Breevoort.”
Quamino’s Map creative team includes a conductor Jeri Lynne Johnsonfounder of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra in Philadelphia and director Kimille Howard, an in-demand opera director and assistant director of the Metropolitan Opera. First opera playwright Cori Ellison serves as playwright for this historic production. The three women make their TOC debut with Quamino’s Map.
Leading its talented national cast are tenors curtis banister as Juba Freeman, Soprano Flora Hawk (early COT) as Amelia Alumond and bass-baritone Damien Geter (COT debut) as the eponymous Quamino Dolly. Rounding out the ensemble cast are COT Cameo Humes regulars Kimberly E. Jones, Joelle LamarreTyrone Chambers II and Leah Dexter, plus apprentice COT artists Keanon Kyles and Veena Akama-Makia.
Performed in the newly renovated Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Avenue, Quamino’s Map is a 90-minute work with no intermission. It will be sung in English accompanied by English surtitles. Performances are Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday 29 April, at 7.30 p.m.; and Sunday, May 1 at 3 p.m. Tickets start at $45 and are on sale now at chicagooperatheater.org/season/map.