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Opera In The Rock Premieres Troubled Island

Guest blog by Opera In The Rock

Opera In The Rock presents Troubled Island, Arkansas native William Grant Still’s historic and groundbreaking opera this weekend at UA Pulaski Tech The Centers for Humanities and Arts.

Friday, May 4 @ 7:30pm // Sunday, May 6 @ 3pm // www.oitr.org


Haiti, 1791: Jean Jacques Dessalines declares himself emperor of an independent Haiti. Corruption, revolution and assassination ensue. Troubled Island, the first grand opera composed by an African American to be produced by a major company, premiered at New York City Opera in 1949. Opera In The Rock is proud to present this rare work by Arkansas native William Grant Still with libretto by Langston Hughes and Verna Arvey for the first time ever in Arkansas featuring an all African American cast of local and regional operatic talent.


William Grant Still (1895 – 1978) was an American composer who composed more than 150 works, including five symphonies and eight operas. Often referred to as “the Dean” of African American composers, Still was the first African American composer to have an opera produced by the New York City Opera. Born in Mississippi, he grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and attended Wilberforce University and Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Still was the first African American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television.


This production includes Arlene Biebesheimer as stage director, Paul Dickinson as conductor and chorus master, and Janine Tiner as accompanist. Set and lighting designer is Josh Anderson; choreography by Lisa Harper; costumes by Kolby Black; Jaimee Jensen-McDaniel as assistant stage director and props master.

Opera In The Rock Mission

To enrich the cultural life of Arkansas through opera by utilizing local, state, and regional artistic talents and to build future audiences for this rich art form through performances and presentations for school-age children

Inviting Arkansas

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