Earlier this month, Susan Kander‘s new chamber opera DWB (short for Driving While Black) made its debut at The University of Kansas, featuring soprano Roberta Gumbel (who doubles as the librettist) and New Morse Code. The racial tensions targeting the African-American community resonates deeply with Gumbel, in part because of her own African-American background, as well as her concerns for her teenage son being racially profiled by police and civilians alike. The opera began as a song-cycle but it eventually morphed into a short, one-woman opera. The premiere has been much anticipated at the University of Kansas because of the timely subject matter. (Watch some of the highlights of the world premiere here in this trailer.)
Kander has always been drawn to words, being formerly a playwright before picking up her musical pen. DWB is her sixth opera to date. Notable earlier operas include One False Move, a young people’s opera about middle and high school bullying among girls which is still very relevant for today’s society, The Giver, based on Lois Lowry’s Newbery Award-winning novel, and The News from Poems, based on the writings and correspondences of influential American modernist writer William Carlos Williams. Find out more about Kander’s operas on her website, or through Kander’s publisher, Subito Music Corporation.