In light of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, it was wondered if a major offering from the D. C. arts community would be presented in the spirit of the great artists of that period, such as Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price or such voices as the Howard University Choir. So, when it was announced that an ‘opera’ would be performed in both Baltimore and Washington, it was of much interest.
What was presented on Tuesday night in the beautiful sanctuary of D. C. ‘s historic Metropolitan A. M. E. Church was more in the manner of informally dramatic reenactments that relied heavily on the audience’s participation rather than the individual talents of the guest performers.
In his introductory remarks, the producer Alan Marshall shared that the work evolved into a multi-media project. One could only wonder what the original direction and intent of the work was. In terms of personnel, there seemed not to be the inclusion of any familiar artists that make up the rich fabric of the Washington arts circuit. Billed as a ‘Civil Rights Opera’-Prelude to A Dream was more or less devoid of any rich solid musical material or delivery from the performers. Instead, by instinct or perhaps by design, the familiarity of the interpolated congregational spirituals certainly provided the core nucleus of the performance with the principal actors only having to offering commentary to what previously occurred from the audience’s perspective. The program itself was difficult to follow in part to the fact that there was no real context for the setting nor was there a libretto that brought the presentation together in a collective fashion.The spirit of the evening’s performance did show great potential. It was evident that a lot of effort and sacrifices were made to honor the story. Those moments really were conveyed by powerhouse singer Jo Ann Clark, who in essence was the musical nucleus of the production. Jeronique Bartley was a sterling standout in her portrayal of Civil Rights Activist Joyce Ladner, who was present. Alan Marshall doubled as the producer and in the pivotal role of Bayard Rustin. At the performance’s end, there was a plea for financial support to further develop the project. Marshall, from many accounts (facebook) has invested his own personal funds to make the presentation a success. Any artistic endeavor in this economy is still a financial burden and such a commitment is certainly to be commended. For the sake of this landmark occasion, it is hoped that this project reach its full potential.