2006.11.30: November 30, 2006: Headlines: COS - Nigeria: Biafra: Music: Opera: Art: Indianapolis: Nigeria RPCV John Sherman writes libretto for brand-new opera, "Biafra," to be presented at the Artsgarden in downtown Indianapolis at 7pm on Wednesday, December 6

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nigeria: Peace Corps Nigeria : The Peace Corps in Nigeria: 2006.11.30: November 30, 2006: Headlines: COS - Nigeria: Biafra: Music: Opera: Art: Indianapolis: Nigeria RPCV John Sherman writes libretto for brand-new opera, "Biafra," to be presented at the Artsgarden in downtown Indianapolis at 7pm on Wednesday, December 6

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-250-74-101.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.250.74.101) on Thursday, November 30, 2006 - 12:28 pm: Edit Post

Nigeria RPCV John Sherman writes libretto for brand-new opera, "Biafra," to be presented at the Artsgarden in downtown Indianapolis at 7pm on Wednesday, December 6

Nigeria RPCV John Sherman writes libretto for brand-new opera, Biafra, to be presented at the Artsgarden in downtown Indianapolis at 7pm on Wednesday, December 6

The world premiere of the brand-new opera, "Biafra," will be presented at the Artsgarden in downtown Indianapolis at 7pm on Wednesday, December 6. This program fulfills the requirements for a presentation by Indianapolis resident John Sherman for his Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship received from the Arts Council of Indianapolis in 2005. Sherman wrote the libretto for the opera, based in part on his book, War Stories: A Memoir of Nigeria and Biafra, in which he provides details of his work with the International Committee of the Red Cross during the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s.

Nigeria RPCV John Sherman writes libretto for brand-new opera, "Biafra," to be presented at the Artsgarden in downtown Indianapolis at 7pm on Wednesday, December 6

OPERA WORLD PREMIERE BEING PRESENTED

AT A FREE, PUBLIC PERFORMANCE

AT THE ARTSGARDEN ON DECEMBER 6

CREATIVE RENEWAL ARTS FELLOWSHIP PRESENTATION LASTING 18 MINUTES INCLUDES VOCALISTS, DANCERS, ORCHESTRA

Caption: Lyric Soprano Paula Ingram will sing the leading role in "Biafra," portraying Mary Okonkwo, a Red Cross nurse working at clinics in Biafra. Here, she poses with her son Chukwuemeka ("Chuks").

INDIANAPOLIS The world premiere of the brand-new opera, "Biafra," will be presented at the Artsgarden in downtown Indianapolis at 7pm on Wednesday, December 6. This program fulfills the requirements for a presentation by Indianapolis resident John Sherman for his Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship received from the Arts Council of Indianapolis in 2005. Sherman wrote the libretto for the opera, based in part on his book, War Stories: A Memoir of Nigeria and Biafra, in which he provides details of his work with the International Committee of the Red Cross during the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s.

The presentation will offer a portion of the second act of the three-act opera and include some of the most dramatic scenes in the opera. The program will last about 18 minutes. Sherman commissioned Nathan Blume, noted composer and conductor, to write the score for the scene that depicts some of the horrors of the war as personally witnessed by Sherman as a relief worker trying to save the lives of thousands of starving children every week. Blume will conduct a 13-piece orchestra.

It is hoped that funding will be forthcoming to allow the entire opera to be set to music and performed.

In the meantime, what Sherman describes as a "stunning array of talent" has been assembled to bring the opera to life. Profiles of the composer/conductor and vocalists appear below. The leading role of Mary Okonkwo, a Red Cross nurse, is being portrayed by Paula Ingram who received rave reviews for her performances in London's West End and in the PBS production of "Porgy and Bess." She is also well known to Indianapolis audiences for her work with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and other groups. Other vocalists include Ngofeen Mputubwele, baritone, as Pius Ibiam, a Biafran soldier, and Timothy Williams, a Red Cross assistant, along with the Kenyetta' Dance Company with Vanessa Owens.

In the opera, Ms. Ingram will wear the actual Red Cross badge worn by Sherman during the months he served on the food/medical team near the front lines in what had been the Eastern Region of Nigeria, then Biafra, and, when he was there, once again a part of Nigeria.

Also in the set will be a full-sized reproduction of a Biafran propaganda poster that Sherman found in one of the former elementary schools where they held a clinic. The sets have been lent for the performance by the Indianapolis Opera.

A dozen dancers from the Kenyetta' Dance Company will perform in a dream sequence, lending their talents to the setting in a clinic in an abandoned school in the heart of war-torn Biafra.

The opera's logo is based on the Biafran flag in that flag, the middle bar had a yellow "rising sun" that was the symbol of the secessionist republic that survived for 30 months before surrendering and becoming, once again, Nigeria.

The Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship program is funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc.

For further information, contact Sherman at 317-923-6775 or email john@mesaverdepress.com. For those who cannot attend, a video of the entire performance will be available soon after the performance on www.mesaverdepress.com or www.nathanielblume.com.

This 18-minute performance of a portion of "Biafra" is the Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship (CRAF) presentation by John Sherman, who received a CRAF for 2005-2006. The Fellowships, given by the Arts Council of Indianapolis, are funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc. John wrote the libretto for the three-act opera and commissioned Nathaniel Blume, noted composer and conductor, to write the score for this portion of "Biafra." It is hoped that funding will be forthcoming to complete the music for the entire opera and, then, for its presentation.

Renowned lyric soprano Paula Ingram will perform the leading role of Mary Okonkwo, a Red Cross nurse working in a clinic in Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War. Other singers will include Ngofeen Mputubwele, baritone, in the role of Pius Ibiam, a Biafran soldier who is Mary's lover; and Timothy Williams, tenor, as Mary's Red Cross assistant, Gabriel. Also participating in the performance will be 12 dancers from the Kenyetta' Dance Company, including the company co-founder Vanessa R. Owens, performing a dream sequence, and a 13-piece orchestra conducted by Nathaniel.

The performance is free and open to the public.

Can't attend? Shortly after the performance, a video of the performance, complete with subtitles, will be available on www.mesaverdepress.com , and www.nathanielblume.com .




John Sherman, Librettist

Peace Corps Online

Sherman based the story line of the opera partly on his own experiences, detailed in his book War Stories: A Memoir of Nigeria and Biafra (Mesa Verde Press, 2002). Prior to the war, he was a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher in what was then the Eastern Region of Nigeria. During that time, the Region became, literally overnight, the secessionist Republic of Biafra. A year after his evacuation due to the onset of the civil war, he returned to work with the Red Cross near the front lines of the war. His own experiences, plus those of persons he came to know during the war, form the basis for the libretto.

The first focus of John's CRAF is the offering of War Stories as a textbook for classes at a number of colleges and universities, either for African Studies or Literature (memoir) classes. So far, two universities have selected the book and several more are considering it for a wide variety of courses for this school year and/or next year.

The second focus of his grant led to tonight's performance. While watching last spring's Indianapolis Opera's production of "Turandot," he decided to move ahead on a project he had considered years before to write an opera about the Nigerian Civil War. The libretto is based in part on his personal experiences and on those of others who shared their stories with him. Although he is the author of numerous articles and of nine books (including one for the International Center of Indianapolis, to be distributed by IU press, with a release date of Fall 2007), this is his first time to write an opera libretto.




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Headlines: November, 2006; COS - Nigeria; Directory of Nigeria RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Nigeria RPCVs; Music; Art; Indiana





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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nigeria; Biafra; Music; Opera; Art

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