Santa Fe Opera announced the October 2019 premiere of Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun by composer and University Professor Augusta Read Thomas and librettist Leslie Dunton-Downer, featuring Nicole Paris, Beatbox Artist, Composer, Chef, Actress, and public figure.
The performance is part of an initiative led by the Sante Fe Opera called Opera for All Voices: Stories of our Time, which was introduced in 2017. The initiative was established to create works to attract audiences of all ages who may not have had an exposure to opera. There are seven companies currently in the consortium — Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Minnesota Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Sarasota Opera, and Seattle Opera. The operas focus on storytelling in imaginative and compelling new ways.
In the spirit of all voices, Nicole Paris, joins Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun as lead artist. Of Miss Paris, Augusta Read Thomas has remarked “I see opera as embracing diverse musical traditions, artists, and audience members. My collaboration with Nicole Paris has been and will continue to be one of the most important partnerships in my life.” And from Miss Paris, “After meeting Augusta Read Thomas, I knew we would awaken the Universe with new music.”
A famous beatboxer begins a dazzling solo show and is alarmed to discover that an opera is about to start on the same stage. Before the mix-up can be sorted out, the opera is under way. Beatboxer at first only attends and reacts to the opera, but eventually cannot resist stepping ‘across the line’ to participate in the action. The opera’s story: An urban rooftop garden family faces a crisis when one of its members, the adorable and beloved yet trickster-like Sweet Potato, kicks the sun out of the galaxy. The family hopes its prayers will call the sun back. But when Sweet Potato also cuts the Cosmic Cord, the sacred string that conveys their prayers beyond the sky, all seems hopeless. Misery only grows when Grandmother Seed-Keeper leaves for her secret cellar and explains why she may never return. All are furious at Sweet Potato for causing so much trouble. Grandfather Beekeeper sends Sweet Potato away to gain wisdom. Sweet Potato’s friend and fellow rooftop garden family member, the caring and at times hyper- vigilant 88, joins for the journey. In the end, their individual strengths and teamwork, and the unexpected intervention of Beatboxer, result in the return of Grandmother and the sun to the garden. Sweet Potato, changed by the journey, is welcomed home as a hero, and Beatboxer is invited to join the family. All ends happily with a joyous rooftop celebration.
In the opera, Nicole Paris beatboxes and sings. The other vocalists sing and, from time to time, develop a wide variety of vocalizations that are akin to beatboxing. As such, the opera organically unfolds a sound world where different musical traditions crisscross and are deeply integrated.
Read more about the opera and the creative process at Augusta Read Thomas' website.