CHICAGO — A new production at the Lyric Opera explores the impact of gun violence in Chicago based on the real stories of people who are working for peace.
‘Proximity,’ premiering at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, is three new operas weaved together against the backdrop of an immersive curved video wall.
“The core of these stories and the title ‘Proximity’ ties it all together is a connection and is understanding things that are outside yourself,” Opera singer Zoie Reams said.
Zoie Reams is a Mezzo Soprano who grew up on the city’s South Side.
The leading piece of the production ‘The Walkers,’ tackles the issue of gun violence in Chicago.
Acclaimed actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith wrote the Libretto for ‘The Walkers.’ She says she dedicates it to the people she calls ‘The Walkers.’
“The people who will walk with individuals who are in a possible transformation and not give up on them. And so that’s very hopeful, and it’s also very beautiful,” Deavere said.
Using her pioneering documentary style and painting theater with quotes from real people, Deavere crafted her first opera.
She interviews people connected with the violence prevention group, Chicago CRED, including Arne Duncan and Curtis Toler — bringing their experiences and words to the lyric stage.
“In the best sense my job is to pull the music out of those words. I hope I’ve done that,” composer Danien Bernard Roumain said.
Roumain was born in Skokie with Haitian roots and shares that his music for ‘The Walkers’ is in conversation with a range of influences, from Bach to Sade and even Megan Thee Stallion.
“There’s a whole section called female. Without giving away too much, a jeep comes out and these beautiful Black women begin to do something I call vocal code switching,” Roumain said.
“I think it’s absolutely crucial that we tell these stories,” Reams said.
Reams shares that she wants people to leave the production with a new sense of understanding and urgency, creating a call to action.
“I hope audiences get a chance to process and reflect on what they saw and then dig deeper.”
There are three performances left for ‘Proximity,’ before it wraps up April 8.
For more information: Proximity | A Trio of American Operas