Three Firsts with The Met’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones”

Christina Knight | March 23, 2022

When composer Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones kicked off the Metropolitan Opera’s 2021-22 season on September 27, 2021, three firsts at the Met were celebrated. It was the first performance of an opera by a Black composer at the Met in its nearly 140-year history. Camille A. Brown co-directed it, making her the first Black director to create a mainstage Met production. And the third first: Fire Shut Up in My Bones was the first production in the Met Opera House since the COVID-19 pandemic closed New York City performance venues in March 2020.

The landmark production reaches TV audiences in the New York City tri-state area when THIRTEEN premieres Great Performances at the Met: Fire Shut Up in My Bones on Friday, April 1 at 9 p.m. The program will broadcast and livestream only. Tony Award winner Audra McDonald hosts the program (see clips now on the Great Performances program page).

A man in tank top is on his knees on top of a bed in middle of stage. He looks at seven men dancing near the side of bed. Are all clothed in shades of brown.

Will Liverman and dancers in “Great Performances at the Met: Fire Shut Up in My Bones.” Photo by Ken Howard.

“Conducting ‘Fire Shut Up in My Bones’ has been a musical highlight of my career,” said Maestro Nézet-Séguin in an OperaWire report in December, which also announced the Met will present an earlier opera by Blanchard. His opera “Champion,” centering on the life of boxer Emile Griffith, will premiere at the Met in April 2023.

In foreground an adolescent boy crouches before a seated woman. Behind the chair a man draws his fist to his chest. In background a woman in white in pale blue light looks on.

Angel Blue, Walter Russell III, Latonia Moore and Will Liverman in “Great Performances at the Met: Fire Shut Up in My Bones.” Photo by Ken Howard.

Based on the 2014 memoir by New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, the opera “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” tells the story of a young man’s journey to overcome a life of trauma and hardship. It features a libretto by filmmaker Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou, Harriet) and score by Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard. Highly sought out for film scores, Blanchard’s many collaborations include 17 films with director Spike Lee.

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On the Met opera house stage, baritone Will Liverman (Akhnaten) stars as Charles alongside soprano Angel Blue (Porgy and Bess) as Destiny/Loneliness/Greta, soprano Latonia Moore (Aida) as Billie, and Walter Russell III as Char’es-Baby. James Robinson co-directs with Camille A. Brown, who has also choreographed the production, as she did for Porgy and Bess at the Met. Met Opera Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts.

For more on the opera, cast and creative team, visit the Met Opera site.

See all Great Performances full episodes, clips, and articles on the official Great Performances site.