June 28 marks the 50th anniversary of an event that proved to be a catalyst for a simmering gay-rights movement. On that day in 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Now a new opera, Stonewall, at the New York City Opera, dramatizes that historic moment.
The idea for the opera, which was commissioned for NYCO's 75th anniversary, came from Michael Capasso, the organization's general director. Capasso points to the NYCO ideals that align with the show. "City Opera had been founded as the People's Opera," he says. "We thought that we needed programming that needed to speak to the people of the city of New York."
Capasso and the team he assembled realized his vision quickly. Just 18 months prior to Stonewall's opening on June 21, Capasso hired Leonard Foglia as the show's director and Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Campbell as the librettist. Campbell, who was paired with British composer Iain Bell, wrote a first draft of the new opera's text in three weeks.
"I wasn't there in 1969, but I'm a beneficiary of what happened in 1969, as are all gay people," Campbell says. "We've all learned from Stonewall. That's why it was such a terrific privilege to be able to write it."
Bell was in the middle of writing another opera. "Yes, time constraints would be pretty intense. But I knew this was a story I wanted to be involved in telling," Bell says. Read more via NPR