Tales from the Briar Patch

briar patch VAF ending.jpg

Music by Nkeiru Okoye

Libretto by Carman Moore

2018

Tryptich of short operas

Approx 90 minutes (3o minutes per opera)

5 lead roles for soprano, soprano II, mezzo, tenor and bass-baritone; with chamber orchestra

Themes: African American folktales, Bre'r Rabbit, Anansi the Spider, African folktalks

Briar Patch, the first opera is complete.  For scores and parts, contact rental@presser.com

Summary

This rebooted triptych of short operas is family friendly and full of fun, while paying tribute to the African tradition of storytelling for all ages. Sister Sparrow, Sister Robin and Madame Partridge retell the antics of Bre’r Rabbit and his nemesis Bre’r Fox in “Briar Patch,” “The Pot of Sense,” and “Madame Partridge and her Eggs.” A concert version of “Briar Patch” can be programmed unstaged on an orchestra concert with five soloists. Libretto by Carman Moore. The music blends African American musical styles of jazz, blues, and gospel with contemporary concert music sounds.

 

NOTE: Each story from the Tales from the Briar Patch is derived from African folk tales.  The character “Bre’r Rabbit” is actually the trickster, “Anansi the Spider,” of ancient Ghanaian folklore.  While many people associate him and his friends with Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus stories, the stories predate Harris and hist stories.  The creators updated the language, using all animals to portray the story, with the trio of spirited birds narrating.  Producers find that the works rate well with all audiences and are especially useful for community discussions and outreach. 

Development of Tales from the Briar Patch by Virginia Arts Festival John Duffy Institute for New Opera and American Opera Projects. Supported in part by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Friedrich Ludwig Diehn Fund of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation and The Aaron Copland Fund for Music.

Sister’ Sparrow, ditzy, likes to show off, high speaking voice.......................................................... Soprano 1

Sister’ Robin, the practical one................................................................................................................ Soprano 2

Sister’ Partridge, the bossy one,.......................................................................................................................Mezzo

Bre’r Rabbit, the famed trickster – has a Kevin Hart type short man’s complex............................. Tenor

Bre’r Fox, The famed trickster’s arch enemy........................................................................... ..............Baritone

 

*Note – Colorblind casting is not permitted.  All singers must be African Americans proficient in classical traditions, as well as performance practices of improvisatory African American music styles, such as gospel and jazz.

Cast

Reviews

“[A] raucous success … Given the painful history of the Uncle Remus stories, it is a blessing to encounter such material in the hands of Black artists such as Okoye, Moore and Stockard.” The Virginian Pilot (2022)

 

“Briar Patch came like a shooting star in this production. Bre'r Rabbit and the Tar Baby is one of three Tales From the Briar Patch that Ms. Okoye and Mr. Moore have created… Each is filled with mirth, home-spun wisdom and a life lesson. The creators look forward to the day when all three operas are performed together on one bill. We do too!” Art Song Update. (2022)

Excerpts

World Premiere
 

2022. World Premiere production at Virginia Arts Festival, Norfolk, VA.  

2022. World Premiere production at Virginia Arts Festival, Norfolk, VA.  

2022. World Premiere production at Virginia Arts Festival, Norfolk, VA.  

Workshops
 

2020. Chamber orchestra workshop of Briar Patch presented by University of Michigan, School of Music Theater and Dance.

2018.  Public workshop of Briar Patch excerpts, presented by American Opera Projects and Dance Theater of Harlem.