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Thee Black Swan Theatre & Opera Company presents

Troubled Island

by William Grant Still, with libretto by Langston Hughes


Working in New York and Los Angeles as a performer and arranger of popular music and a composer of concert music and grand opera with over 150 works to his name, the Black American musician William Grant Still combined European, New World and African musical heritages to create a unique modernist style which fused and transcended the contemporary influences of classical and jazz.

"Troubled Island" (1949) tells the story of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, once a slave, then a rebel general and first Emperor of Haiti in the age of Napoleon. At that time, St Domingue, worked by an army of half a million slaves in notoriously cruel conditions, was the most valuable colonial asset in the world. With dynamic scenes of heroism, love, betrayal and murder, as a commentary on the revolutionary life it parallels the better known tragedies of Spartacus and Emiliano Zapata.

In 1949, the piece was mounted at the New York City Opera, with white performers blacked up to play the principal roles of black Haitians. That night the opera received 22 curtain calls, and there were two more performances soon after, but it has been long believed that a group of hostile critics then got together to wreck it.
We believe that this Thee Black Swan production, supported by The Arts Council of Great Britain and William Grant Still Music, is the first full production of “Troubled Island" in Europe.

Age guidance 10+

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