Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom, an original opera by Nkeiru Okoye ’92, will be performed in Cleveland-area churches and in Oberlin five times from January 29 through February 7. It takes place at Finney Chapel on Saturday, February 6. All performances are free.
Presented by Cleveland Opera Theater's New Opera Initiative in conjunction with Oberlin Opera Theater, Harriet Tubman tells the story of the influential former slave and her rise to a pivotal role in the Underground Railroad. Based on recent biographical research, the opera focuses on Tubman’s close bond with her family and celebrates the universal themes of sisterhood, courage, sacrifice, and familial devotion. It draws upon a wide range of musical influences including opera, gospel, spirituals, ragtime, and minstrel songs.
Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom premiered in New York City in February 2014. The Cleveland production, the opera's Midwest premiere, is directed by Jonathon Field, associate professor of opera theater at Oberlin, and conducted by Julius P. Williams.
It features a cast and orchestra made up of Cleveland artists as well as Oberlin students, including Amber Monroe, Victoria Ellington, Sophia Bass, Kojo Appiah, Ryan Dearon, Cory McGee, and David Hughey ’03. The orchestra includes Oberlin students Ryan McDonnell (violin), Molly Tucker (violin), and Ivan Aidun (bass), as well as alumna Rebecca Reed ’11 (cello) and Assistant Dean for Academic Support Chris Jenkins (viola).
Presented as part of Oberlin College's Africana Unity and Celebration Month, Harriet Tubman opens at 7 p.m. Friday, January 29, at Christ Temple Apostolic Church in Oberlin. It continues with Oberlin performances at 2 p.m. Sunday, January 31, at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, February 6, in Finney Chapel. For a complete list of northeast Ohio performances, visit the Cleveland Opera Theater site.
A composer since age 13, Okoye graduated from Oberlin Conservatory at age 20 and earned master’s and doctoral degrees at Rutgers University. She is director of music theory and composition at the State University of New York at New Paltz.