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In 1932, this opera was a hit. Why has no one seen it since?

Tom Tom opera written by Shirley Graham DuBois has not been performed since it premiered in 1931. It is being workshopped by Matt Auction’s opera company AMOC. Archive items, including libretto, photo, pages of music, are pictured in Schlesinger Library at Harvard University. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Despite its successful debut in 1932, the opera “Tom Tom,” by composer Shirley Graham, was never performed again.

Davóne Tines ’09, a bass-baritone with American Modern Opera Company (AMOC), stepped to the microphone in the Horner Room, a rehearsal space at Radcliffe Institute, and began to sing:

Listen to the distant tom-tom
And answer quickly when they call you
Beat more loudly on your tom-tom|
And tell us if there’s danger near.

These are the opening lines of “Tom-Tom,” a three-act opera that hasn’t been performed since 1932, when the Cleveland Stadium Opera Company premiered the work by African-American composer Shirley Graham before a weekend crowd of more than 25,000.

“This is a dream come true to see this come to fruition,” said James T. Kloppenberg, Charles Warren Professor of American History, who came to hear the workshopping of “Tom-Tom” and to celebrate the research of his former student Lucy Caplan ’12.


Read the full article here.

Article by: Jill Radsken