Chamber opera explores reality and anxiety of driving while Black

Posted on: June 8, 2021

“Black drivers were … 71% more likely to be pulled over in 2020 than white drivers, and 25% more likely to be arrested in Missouri,” writes Patrick News in Saturday’s (6/5) Kansas City Star (MO). “That reality, mixed with the oppressive anxiety Black parents face when they give the car keys to their children, is explored in the opera ‘dwb (driving while black).’ Composed by Kansas City native Susan Kander with a libretto by Roberta Gumbel … the 2018 opera has just been released … by Albany Records. UrbanArias, an opera company based in Washington, D.C., has also made a film version … available for viewing online…. Written for soprano, cello and percussion, ‘dwb’ … is a powerful, compact 45-minute chamber opera in which a mother reflects on the dangers her child faces. Her musings are occasionally interrupted with news bulletins referencing Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile and other real-life victims of racism…. Just as the political setting of Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ … is not as important as its theme of oppression, Gumbel hopes her opera might one day transcend the politics of America…. ‘The desire to be safe in your own world is universal. Everybody deserves that,’ she says.”