Shadowboxer: an Opera inspired by the life of Joe Louis

I’ve been in Baltimore this week for a staged reading of “Shadowboxer,” an opera I co-wrote with composer Frank Proto. It was performed last night at the Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State University. Today (5/14) we move to the Peabody Institute in downtown Baltimore for a 7:30 performance, and a matinee performance on Sunday at 3:00 pm.

“Shadowboxer” was commissioned in 2007 by the Music School and Opera Studio of the University of Maryland, College Park. It premiered there in 2010 at the Clarice Smith Fine Arts Center. The three performances held this week mark the first time it has been done since its premiere. Carolyn Black-Sotir, who served as the assistant director for the original production, worked tirelessly to secure the funding needed to workshop the opera with a new ending, and arranged for it to become part of this year’s Play Lab Series at Center Stage in Baltimore.

Leon Major, who directed the original production, and Timothy Long who conducted it, returned to make the opera live again. I’ve included a few rehearsal shots below. To view excerpts from the original production at U. Maryland, click on this link to the “Shadowboxer” home page.


The Shadowboxer full cast

The Shadowboxer Ensemble


Old Joe -Performed by

Old Joe -Performed by Daren Jackson


Marva Trotter Barrow (Joe's first wife) performed by Lindsey, and Young Joe, performed by

Marva Trotter Barrow (Joe’s first wife) performed by Lindsay Roberts, and Young Joe, performed by Terrence Chin-Loy


Shadowboxer Cast

Shadowboxer Cast



Aria from Diva – Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez

“Fernandez sings the aria “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana”, from Act I of Catalani’s opera “La Wally.” The piece is a haunting reverie on the theme of traveling alone and far from home. Catalani died in 1893 of consumption at the age of 39, only a year after the triumphant premiere of “La Wally” at La Scala.

This performance plays a prominent role in the 1981 French romantic thriller, “Diva” – and is an excerpt from the DVD.

The opera, based on a German novel, has a libretto by the young Luigi Illica, who went on to collaborate on the texts for “La Boheme,” “Tosca” and “Madama Butterfly.” It tells of a wild, headstrong Swiss mountain girl who loves one local huntsman and is loved by another. Eventually she wins her true love, the pair embraces high in the Alps, an avalanche entombs the hero and she leaps after him to her snowy death.”