September 8, 2023

Opera “is for everyone” at Opera in the Park

Photo Courtesy of Indianapolis Opera - Photo Courtesy of Indianapolis Opera

Photo Courtesy of Indianapolis Opera

Photo Courtesy of Indianapolis Opera

Opera Season is here in Indianapolis. When you think opera in Indy, most think of the great soprano Angela Brown.  She and pianist Joshua Thompson will once again be two of the stars of “Opera in the Park” at Garfield Park on Saturday, September 9th.  They spoke to WFYI’s Ray Steele ahead of the season opener for the Indianapolis Opera.

RAY STEELE:  The two of you were in our studio not long ago, recording the latest season of your podcast “Melanated Moments in Classical Music.”  I trust that's going well.

ANGELA BROWN: Yes, sir. I think it's going to start to air…

JOSHUA THOMPSON: September 20. Yeah. So, we kind of get the perfect back-to-back with “Opera in the Park”, then some melanated magic on the podcast. So yes, very excited.

STEELE: Angela, of course, for years, a part of your mission is - if I may say this - opera for regular folks.

BROWN: Opera is for everyone.

STEELE: I guess “Opera in the Park” would play right into that.

BROWN:  Well, definitely. Opera in the Park has proven over the past years that it's been back, that it is a catch all for everyone that loves a little musical theater, of course, opera, you have some jazz, and we really have been packing them in. So, it's been exciting and fun to see it evolve.

STEELE: How many years is this been for Opera in the Park being back now?

BROWN: This is now the sixth year, I believe. Yeah, the sixth year.

STEELE: It's at Garfield Park. It's an outdoor show. And it's just it seems like such a fun, light atmosphere. Yet a little bit of heavy music in there. Joshua.

THOMPSON: It's one of my favorites. There's something to be said about just seeing the city of Indianapolis come out under the stars and just enjoy good music, good people. And it really helps folks understand that we have a thriving and vibrant and cutting-edge opera company that's here. So, you get a little bit of everything, you'll get opera and classical music on the nose. And then we'd like to genre bend just a little bit. A little bit. And especially since this evening is all about honoring a local vocal legend, Everett Greene. So, we're excited to be able to be a part of this family and give homage and have fun at the same time.

BROWN: And I get to sing a duet with him.  It’s a huge coup for me.

STEELE: Now, for somebody who might not know, Everett Greene is…

BROWN: He is Indianapolis’s premier jazz singer. Think Lou Rawls, think Joe Williams, but right up there with them is Everett Greene. He has been a part of the musical arts of Indianapolis and the world for years now. And we are just very excited to have him to be honored by Indianapolis Opera for his musical prowess.

STEELE: So, what do you have planned, Joshua?  What will you be playing?

THOMPSON.  Well, you know, me, I just like to show up. It's just fun to be and build. I'm excited. This is my third time being with Opera in the Park. It is probably one of the biggest crowds I play for, which is so much fun. But I'm going to give you a little bit of church and a little bit of classical mash that we're doing some Florence Price and some Margaret Bonds pieces. And just real excited because they're upbeat, and they're fun. And it gives you that nice little break in between the opera to remind folks that you know, as Black musicians, we have always been here always contributing. And it's a humble honor to continue that tradition. And the best way that I know how.

STEELE: Opera in the Park is the official season opener for the Indianapolis Opera, and one of the shows on the schedule I did want to mention is one that – Angela - is very important to you. And that's Charlie Parker's Yardbird.  I believe it's coming up in March. Now Angela, you originated the role of Addie, Charlie Parker's mother, and you're going to be reprising that role in Indy.  When you think of Charlie Parker you think of jazz, when you think of jazz you think of improvisation. Opera, you think every little note in its right place. So how do these two mesh?

BROWN: Well, let me tell you every little note is in its place. But when Daniel Schnyder imagined this score, he did not put Charlie Parker's music in it but it is referenced, and the style of his music, of his and Dizzy Gillespie's music. The bebop era is definitely presented, and the singers have to work very hard. I mean, he composed this on a saxophone. So, you hear the saxophone throughout the score. So, it's a show that is fast paced. It is a show that talks about Charlie Parker's life as he has died, let's put it that way. It's a ghost story. And he comes back after he has died. And he's trying to write his last great piece of music, which is a symphonic piece. And all during the time he's trying to feverishly write this music because no one knows he's dead yet. Okay, so he's laying in a morgue with a toe tag, a John Doe, toe tag, and no one knows he's dead yet. So, he's like, Okay, I got time to write this music. And while he is writing the music now, this isn't his ghost mind, of course. He is visited like Scrooge by different apparitions from his life. His mother Addie, his best friend Dizzy Gillespie and three of his wives. Okay, or common law wives. Maybe one's a real wife. I don't know - all that remains to be seen. But they all are admonishing him and talking to him about how much they love him, and you know, then they really relive some happy spots, but basically everyone is telling him that he has to get off the drugs. And by the end of the opera, you just have to come and see.

Angela Brown and Joshua Thompson are among those performing at the Indianapolis Opera season opener Opera in the Park, Saturday September 9 at Garfield Park. Information is available at

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