Malcolm X takes the stage at The Strand
One-night-only opera production portrays activist’s Boston roots
On June 17, Malcolm X’s bold and booming speeches will ring out at the Strand Theatre during the New England premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis’ opera, “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X.” Produced by Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) and Odyssey Opera, the one-night-only semi-staged orchestral production describes Malcolm X’s life just down the road from his teenage home in Roxbury.
Bass-Baritone Davóne Tines plays Malcolm X in the show. He says he was moved by the production concept from the beginning. “It was something extremely exciting to me because it’s a contemporary composer … and also, the opportunity and privilege to represent a seminal Black American historic figure is deeply in line with the sort of work that I’ve been wanting to do,” he says. Since graduating from Julliard in 2013, Tines has been honing his artistic purpose toward productions like this, pieces written about the Black experience by contemporary artists.
Part opera, part orchestral concert, the genre-bending performance uses five cast members to explore Malcolm X’s life and the way he’s often been misunderstood. In addition to Tines, mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller, soprano Whitney Morrison and tenor Victor Robertson, the cast includes Boston-based baritone Joshua Conyers and 14-year-old Framingham singer Jonathan Harris.
The performance is a one-night engagement, and it’s heavily connected with the community. Castle of Our Skins, a Boston-based, Black-led chamber music ensemble, has curated an educational space at the Strand displaying Malcolm’s words and audio clips from his speeches to promote further dialogue. The Strand will also host an exhibit of works by students of the Boston Arts Academy responding to Malcolm X’s life. These student works, spanning the media gamut from video installations to visual art and dance performances, will be on view before, during and after the show. This gallery at the Strand is open to the public.
“X” is staged as part of BMOP’s “As Told By: History, Race, and Justice on the Opera Stage” program, which features operas past, present and new by Black American composers and that center on Black liberation. The program runs through 2026.
Though it has been decades since Malcolm X’s speeches rang out to fervent crowds, his message remains relevant. “In real time, various speeches that I delivered during the piece could seem as if they were being delivered to whatever was happening in the news that day,” says Tines. “The piece is joyously and terribly relevant to our current moment … There’s a terribleness that these words still need to be spoken and there’s a joy that there could be change.”