two vocalists and improvising piano
Boosey & Hawkes
Opera Philadelphia Channel, Philadelphia, PA
Courtney Bryan, piano / Janinah Burnett, soprano / Damian Norfleet / Opera Philadelphia
Courtney Bryan’s Blessed is a multi-layered exploration of darkness and light, hope and love, weaving together musical recordings and film footage from New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia. Created as a response to the milestone events of 2020—the uprising in response to police brutality against Black men and women, the November election—Blessed reflects upon the Christian Bible’s avowal that the meek will one day “inherit the earth.”
The constraints of creating new opera during a pandemic resulted in an innovative cross-country collaboration amongst Bryan (who also plays piano for the film), filmmaker Tiona Nekkia McClodden, soprano Janinah Burnett, vocalist Damian Norfleet, and sound designer Rob Kaplowitz. Using improvisation as a guiding principle, each artist offered original ideas in conversation with Bryan’s score. The result is a deeply personal musical and visual reflection upon how to find hope during difficult times.
“The highly effective score is based on Bryan’s pianistic improvisations, which are something like jazz great Bill Evans’ — only more lush and warm — and also with moments that are expressionistically spare.” — Philadelphia Inquirer
“a stirring exploration of Christian theology and present-day social engagement.” — Broad Street Review