17 June 2020

Brighter horizons: a way forward for Voix des Arts

COVID-19 and the global response thereto have given artists in all genres and those who enjoy, support, and celebrate their work countless reasons to despair. Postponements, cancellations, and transitions from in-theater to virtual performances have decimated both the quintessence of the Arts community and individual artists’ abilities to maintain their livelihoods amidst unprecedented financial hardships.

Despite obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable, Art and artists have devised myriad new, innovative ways of exercising their collective determination and fostering hope for a future that, though vastly different from anyone’s expectations, promises renewal, rejuvenation, and previously-unimagined avenues of collaboration, cooperation, and growth.

In the weeks since publicly announcing that circumstances exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic imperiled the continuation of Voix des Arts, I have been humbled by the messages of encouragement and pledges of support that I have received from readers and fellow Arts enthusiasts. I am overjoyed to now share the news that, owing to your selfless kindness, the short-term survival of Voix des Arts has been secured. Moreover, significant strides have been made towards long-term solutions to problems that are increasingly likely to persist well beyond the eagerly-awaited mitigation of COVID-19. In all senses, the work continues.

The past month in American history has catapulted so many of us who had grown complacent with efforts at diversifying the Arts to a harrowing realization that this is the area in which the work must continue most robustly and differently. The marginalization of minorities in the Performing Arts may seem inconsequential in comparison with the systemic racism and devaluation of life that degrade our society, but failing to address this inequality in a meaningful way restricts the extent to which our culture can be altered.

I have been privileged since my first experience with professional opera, a 1997 Metropolitan Opera performance of Bizet’s Carmen with Denyce Graves in the title rôle, to enjoy superb performances by artists of color in a tremendous variety of parts, some of the most thrilling of which include Lawrence Brownlee as Ilo in Rossini’s Zelmira; Nicole Cabell as Giulietta in Bellini’s I Capuleti ed i Montecchi and Medora in Verdi’s Il corsaro; Steven Cole as Don Buscone in Cavalli’s Veremonda; Lisa Daltirus as Leonora in Il trovatore; Jacqueline Echols as Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata; Nmon Ford as Verdi’s Iago; Othalie Graham as Verdi’s Lady Macbeth and Puccini’s Turandot; Denyce Graves as Carmen and Azucena in Il trovatore; Gordon Hawkins as Verdi’s Nabucco and Amonasro in Aida and Alberich in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Musa Ngqungwana as Der Wanderer in Wagner’s Siegfried; Sidney Outlaw as Dandini in Rossini’s La Cenerentola; Mark Rucker as Verdi’s Macbeth; Russell Thomas as Verdi’s Otello and the Prince in Dvořák’s Rusalka; Talise Trevigne as Cio-Cio San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Pip in Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick; and Mary Elizabeth Williams as Verdi’s Desdemona. These performances were memorable because they featured artists of substance whose unique personal journeys contributed to thoughtful interpretations of composers’ music and librettists’ words. That many of those journeys were often thwarted by stereotypes, ignorance, and hatred is an atrocity that should disgust and dismay every Arts lover.

As I express my heartfelt gratitude for your ongoing and galvanizing support of Voix des Arts, I also beseech you to dedicate yourselves—as I dedicate myself—to fomenting improvement in our Arts community, not only in our interactions with one another but also in the manners in which we examine and share our own perspectives. Let our actions embody the words of Friedrich von Schiller, set by Beethoven in the final movement of his Ninth Symphony: ‘Alle Menschen werden Brüder, wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.’ May our gentle wings soon hover together again, unencumbered by afflictions of body or mind.


Joseph Newsome
Author of Voix des Arts
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