MYNORTHWEST LIFESTYLE

Complex civil rights leader the focus of Seattle Opera performance

Feb 23, 2024, 1:00 PM | Updated: 1:27 pm

Kenneth Kellogg (Malcolm X, center) with members of the Seattle Opera ensemble of "X: The Life and ...

Kenneth Kellogg (Malcolm X, center) with members of the Seattle Opera ensemble of "X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X." (Photo: Sunny Martini)

(Photo: Sunny Martini)

Saturday is opening night for Seattle Opera’s production of “X: The Life & Times of Malcolm X.” It’s a revival of an opera that is as complex and challenging as the man at its center.

With its strong jazz undertones, the music is intricate, complex, and deliberately improvisational.

Composer Anthony Davis told KIRO Newsradio that although his opera first debuted in 1986, “The idea of what a piece of music is – the fundamental idea, for me – a piece of music is not something fixed, it’s something that can transform.”

And it’s perhaps befitting a story of a civil rights icon whose own life changed significantly in his brief 39 years.

The opera touches on key moments of Malcolm’s life, including family tragedy, crime, and a stint in prison where Malcolm joined the Nation of Islam and began using X as his last name.

Weekend revelry roundup: The events will be ‘Unstoppable’

He eventually had a falling out with the Nation and was assassinated in 1965.

“His life and his life’s journey is operatic in itself,” said bass-baritone Kenneth Kellogg, who portrays Malcolm X in the opera.

“The score- it’s difficult. It’s one that captures the complexity of Malcolm X’s life. But for me, I love playing characters that have the various layers of complexity to them.”

Director Robert O’Hara said there are challenges beyond the score in the opera, referring – again – to the life it is telling.

“Every performance, we are killing a black man at the end,” said O’Hara, “and somehow that has to be recognized.”

It is a hard truth, but one he’s willing to help tell.

“Because it’s what I do as an artist. I go into places, and I interact with humanity, and I hold a microscope up to the human condition. And sometimes the human condition is ugly,” O’Hara explained.

Kellogg added, “I think the echoes of what Malcolm X stood for reverberated through the Black Lives Matter movement, they reverberated through Hip Hop they reverberated through a lot of the fight of people who’ve been oppressed.”

“It’s always a battle in America,” said Davis. “It’s a battle to tell our stories and also to be ready to confront the challenges we’re going to face in the future.”

Though Malcolm X died decades ago, these African American artists say his life story remains as relevant as the opera that dares to tell it.

Heather Bosch is an award-winning anchor and reporter for KIRO Newsradio.

 

MyNorthwest Lifestyle

weekend events...

Paul Holden

Weekend events roundup: Summer fests, block parties and zoo activities

The weekend is here, the sun is shining and there are plenty of weekend events to do including new zoo exhibits, summer fests and block parties.

4 days ago

Photo: Saks OFF 5th at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle will close on July 20....

Bill Kaczaraba

Departure of Saks from downtown Seattle hits retail core with another bit of bad news

Downtown Seattle’s retail core is taking another hit with the announcement that Saks OFF 5th will close this month.

5 days ago

Image: Parents and children enjoy a splash park in Shoreline on Monday, July 8, 2024, a blistering ...

James Lynch

Splash parks are open in Western Washington to beat the heat

Since many people in the Puget Sound don't have home air conditioners, finding a place to take kids to cool off, like splash parks, is vital.

8 days ago

Image: Jewell Loyd of the Seattle Storm reacts after making a three-point basket against the Indian...

Paul Holden

Weekend revelry roundup: Lots of sporting events around town, plus pirates

The weekend is underway for most due to the holiday, but there still is plenty to do this weekend. Lots of sports are on the docket.

12 days ago

Image: Drones appear to be falling into Angle Lake in SeaTac during the city's Family Fourth of Jul...

Steve Coogan

Dozens of dud drones: Malfunctioning machines sink SeaTac July 4th show

The Fourth of July celebrations in the city of SeaTac Thursday night included dozens of malfunctioning drones, some falling into Angle Lake.

12 days ago

Image: A horse group was among the many parade entries at the Edmonds 4th of July parade in Edmonds...

Bill Kaczaraba

Washington celebrates July 4th with parades, picnics, fireworks

People across Western Washington and beyond took to the picture-perfect day and celebrated July 4th with abandon.

13 days ago

Complex civil rights leader the focus of Seattle Opera performance