Monday, August 13, 2012

Creole Opera at the movie theater

This week, the French Film Festival is being held at our last neighborhood theater, the fabulous Prytania. So, I usually try to get there for at least one interesting subtitled film. Saturday afternoon, the feature was "Farewell, My Queen," about the final days of Marie Antoinette as experienced by her handmaiden.

In other cities, a premiere about the French Revolution might not be a sellout, but in New Orleans, our Gallic tradition is strong. The line to buy tickets was down the block.

Before the show, two singers in midnight blue formal gowns and feather headdresses stood on the stage and performed operatic songs - in French, mais oui!

I started talking to the woman sitting next to me, as people do here. She explained the singers were mother and daughter, members of the OperaCreole, a group of classical singers of color.

OperaCreole singers
These singers perform the usual classical songs as well as Negro spirituals and 19th century music written by New Orleans Free People of Color - former slaves who bought their freedom.

The first opera in the United States was performed in New Orleans in 1797. The French Opera House was built on the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse in 1859. So, New Orleans has a long operatic history.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation provided funding for the festival to include live entertainment before the films.

Hear more on our local WWNO-FM public radio station.

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