Anthony Davis: Amistad
Libretto by Thulani Davis

Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra and Chorus; Thomas Young, Mark S. Doss, Stephen West, Florence Quivar, Mark Baker; Dennis Russell Davies, conductor

Amistad is an opera that was ten years in the making. Thulani and I first discussed the idea of making an opera on the Amistad Rebellion in 1986, after the premiere of our opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. We were drawn to the drama of the story, a successful uprising of captives on a slave ship, and the implications of the Amistad incident in an understanding of ourselves and the American experience. Through the Amistad, we could revisit the story of the Middle Passage, the contradictions implicit in the ethos of America, and also explore the emergence of the African-American as a cultural entity. Amistad is my most ambitious work to date and gave me the opportunity to expand upon what I learned from my previous operas as well as the chance to explore new musical areas." -- Anthony Davis


The music of Anthony Davis (b. 1951) embodies an intercultural approach, drawing not only upon traditional and current African-American sources, but upon Javanese gamelan, American Minimalism, and the European and American avant-garde. Davis is best known for his operas. "[X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X] has brought new life to America's conservative operatic scene," enthused Andrew Porter in The New Yorker, "it is not just a stirring and well-fashioned opera — that already is much — but one whose music adds a new, individual voice to those previously heard in our opera houses."

Amistad, Davis's fourth, is an opera in two acts with full orchestra, double chorus, and an integrated jazz ensemble with trap drums that drives its motoric rhythmic flow. In many ways, Amistad revisits aspects of Davis's previous operas, X and Tania, but in a form that exhibits maximum focus and a tightened compositional practice. The musical language is marked by constant motion and kaleidoscopic permutation of the same elements, including a four-note ending cadence that appears constantly, but in ever-shifting guises.

This recording is drawn from Lyric Opera of Chicago's 1997 world-premiere performances.

Lyric Opera of Chicago

Anthony Davis: Amistad

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Amistad, Act I: Overture
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Amistad, Act I, Scene I: Aria "The unknown is my realm"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene II: Duet "We may yet get away"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene II: "Lord, you cannot see"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene II: "It's an English word, an Englishman's word"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene II: Recitative "Land! We've hit land!"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene II: "Ahoy there. Who are you?"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene II: "Not just Nduo. Not just a slave"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene II: "We, at last, have come to naught."
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Amistad, Act I, Scene II: Recitative "He's mad too"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene II: "I believe, sir. You should be glad for your life"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene II: Aria "And me, am I save' ?"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene III: Parade I
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Amistad, Act I, Scene III: "So these are the savages"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene III: Aria "They yap and snap"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene IV: Aria "They wanted a girl"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene IV: "Chief, what will become of us?"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene IV: Aria "The past is fading daylight"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene IV: Parade II
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Amistad, Act I, Scene I: "The base of his brain"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene V: "Deep in the festering hold"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene V: "We are grateful, sir"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene V: "This is where the case lies"
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Amistad, Act I, Scene V: Aria "The greatest liberty"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene I: Sextet "It's quite a show
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Amistad, Act II, Scene II: Aria "The moonlight died"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene III: "Mr. President"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene IV: Aria "That day, each get one banana"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene IV: "I see we're in a spot"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene V: Sextet "We thought they came for salt"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene V: Aria "In this white village"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene V: Recitative "They were forced"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene VI: Aria "They come as if from the heavens"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene VII: "How did you come to kill?"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene VII: "Nansi, Brer Nansi"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene VII: "C'mon now, the party's over"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene VII: Recitative "These fools don' b'lieve you"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene VII: "I'm not like you"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene VII: Orchestral introduction to scene VIII
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Amistad, Act II, Scene VIII: Aria "It's time to take the helm"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene VIII: The Rebellion
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Amistad, Act II, Scene VIII: Aria "He sleeps at his master's feet"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene IX: Aria "To own one's life, one's very breath"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene IX: "This is a great day"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene IX: Duet "Hush now, Translator"
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Amistad, Act II, Scene IX: "The courts say you are free"
Anthony Davis
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Amistad, Act II, Scene IX: "The meaning is clear"
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