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A New York Metropolitan Opera First: Performing A Work By A Black Composer

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have some big news today about the trumpeter Terence Blanchard. He scored a number of Spike Lee films and was nominated for an Academy Award and is now about to make history at one of this country's most renowned performing arts institutions.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Metropolitan Opera in New York is about to open, and they're returning with a performance of "Fire Shut Up In My Bones."

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "FIRE SHUT UP IN MY BONES")

UNIDENTIFIED PERFORMER: (Singing) I am what I am.

MARTIN: Blanchard composed it. The opera will be the first by a Black musician presented at the Met in its 138-year history.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TERENCE BLANCHARD: "Fire Shut Up In My Bones" is based off of Charles Blow's memoirs.

INSKEEP: That's Blanchard in a video posted by the Met talking about Charles Blow, who is a New York Times columnist.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BLANCHARD: Charles grew up in a little town called Gibson, La. He was always a little different, always a little awkward. And he was, you know, persecuted because of it.

INSKEEP: Blanchard is known for his jazz. But in an interview with our NPR member station WBUR, he talked about growing up around other kinds of music.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BLANCHARD: When I was growing up in New Orleans, my father loved operatic music and wanted to be an operatic singer. I heard classical music in the house growing up all the time. That was my orientation. Jazz was the thing that I heard in the streets and became really infatuated by. But even with that, one thing that I learned is that our community has always embraced a wide range of musical expressions.

MARTIN: Blanchard's opera debuts Monday evening at the Metropolitan Opera. The final performance will be shown live in movie theaters around the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF TERENCE BLANCHARD'S "FALL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.