Tulsa Opera drops composer Roumain from concert memorializing 1921 massacre

Posted on: March 23, 2021

“The Tulsa Opera has canceled a piece written for a concert on the city’s 1921 race massacre after the composer of one of four pieces for the event refused a request to remove a curse on America from the piece,” states an unsigned article on Monday’s (3/22) Associated Press. “New York composer Daniel Roumain said Sunday he was commissioned to write for mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves one of four libretti for a ‘Greenwood Overcomes’ concert scheduled for a May 1 performance by the Tulsa Opera. Roumain balked, however, when Graves, who is Black, objected to the final line after the line ‘God Bless America’—’God Damn America’—in his They Still Want To Kill Us libretto and Opera officials wanted it changed. ‘As a Black woman, I am a huge supporter of all Black Lives, Black expression and creativity.’ Graves said … ‘I don’t have trouble with strong lyrics, but I felt that they did not line up with my personal values….’ Tobias Picker, the Opera’s creative director, ‘suggested I omit the word “Damn.” I refused, explaining that is how I felt about this county,’ Roumains said … ‘So, they fired me.’… The Opera, ‘Denyce Graves and all of the other 22 Black composers and eight Black artists, as well as … the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, are committed to the spirit of the “Greenwood Overcomes” concert,’ Picker said.”