The New Opera ‘Fire Shut Up In My Bones’ Will Be Unleashed in St. Louis This Week
How long can you keep your most powerful desires shut up in your bones? And what about the memories of childhood violence that live on in the body long after you are grown, gone away and ostensibly safe?
Those are the questions at the heart of an innovative new opera premiering at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis this Friday. Based on Charles Blow’s critically acclaimed memoir of the same name, “Fire Shut Up In My Bones” takes audiences down into the poorest parts of rural Louisiana and into the darkest memories of a young boy who managed to escape the braided legacies of many violences.
Though raised by a loving mother with a will to survive powerful enough to send her out chasing overturned cow trucks in the middle of the night for meat to feed her sons, Blow could not fully find protection from the pressures of desperate poverty or the sexual abuse by an older cousin that he kept secret from those he loved most. But while his brilliance in academics did carry him away from that troubled home, the painful cycle that marked his childhood threatened to re-emerge in him—until Blow took a stand and claimed another path.
When it was released in 2014, the source material for “Fire” was hailed by critics as a fresh and necessary examination of queer identity, black masculinity and the ways in which marginalized communities can escape the binds of secrecy and suffering. Its opera adaptation promises to push those themes even further, adding Louisiana blues, gospel and the power of the American musical tradition to a narrative that is unflinching in both its raw intimacy and its openness to the rare idea of true redemption.
Performed in English and developed by an all-star team whose resumes include a few Hollywood favorites even non-opera-goers might recognize—including “BlacKkKlansman,” “Eve’s Bayou” and “Black Nativity”—”Fire Shut Up in My Bones” is a rare opportunity to see what’s on the cutting edge of the opera world and a moving dramatization of an American experience that doesn’t often grace such stages.