Anthony Davis’s groundbreaking opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X arrives on the stage of the Met, premiering November 3
The new production by Robert O’Hara, the Tony-nominated director of Slave Play, stars baritone Will Liverman as the legendary
civil rights leader
The November 18 performance will be transmitted live around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series
A range of public events to support the landmark premiere include the first-ever live 18 hour marathon reading of the entire Autobiography of Malcolm X, as Told to Alex Haley on October 29
New York, NY (October 24, 2023)—The Metropolitan Opera presents the company premiere of Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Anthony Davis’s groundbreaking opera
X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, opening November 3, the second of six new productions in the 2023–24 season. The influential opera, which first premiered in 1986, is newly staged by Tony-nominated director of Slave Play Robert O’Hara, who imagines Malcolm as an everyman whose story transcends space and time. With a libretto by Thulani Davis and story by Christopher Davis, the opera explores how one man’s fight to define his life on his own terms becomes a battle cry for justice for an entire people.
“Malcolm X would want us to investigate and interrogate what it means for us to put his story on the Met stage,” said O’Hara. “Every part of this presentation is meant to offer an experience that challenges and disrupts the status quo, so we can see each other in our shared future, united by our humanity.”
Conductor Kazem Abdullah conducts the newly revised score, which features a layered, jazz-inflected setting for this powerful historical drama. The cast stars Grammy Award–winning baritone Will Liverman, who triumphed in the Met premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, as Malcolm, alongside soprano Leah Hawkins as his mother, Louise, and wife, Betty; mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis as his sister Ella; bass-baritone Michael Sumuel as his brother Reginald; and tenor Victor Ryan Robertson as Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.
X follows Malcolm’s journey from his original identity as Malcom Little, born to Reverend Earl Little and his wife, Louise, in Lansing, Michigan, to Malcolm X after he studies and accepts the teachings of the Nation of Islam, and beyond. The opera represents X’s life as one of boundless evolution, whose messages of Black self-sufficiency and self-determination were often at odds with the mainstream but continue to resonate today.
Led by O’Hara, the creative team also includes set designer Clint Ramos, costume designer Dede Ayite, lighting designer Alex Jainchill, projection designer Yee Eun Nam, wig designer Mia Neal, and choreographer Rickey Tripp—all in their Met debuts.
Following the season premiere on November 3, seven additional performances run through December 2.
Public Programs and Special Events
In support of this highly anticipated company premiere, the Met and its partners have curated a series of public events designed to shed light on the power and influence of the work and explore the issues it addresses.
The Schomburg Center’s Black Theatre Preview
Monday, October 16, 6:30PM
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
As part of their preview of upcoming works of Black theater and music, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture invited soprano Leah Hawkins to speak about portraying Betty Shabazz and sing an excerpt from the opera.
A Conversation│Afrofuturism: Reclaiming Our Narrative
Thursday, October 19, 7:30PM
The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center
The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center and the Metropolitan Opera welcomed acclaimed curator Ingrid LaFleur to host Afrofuturism: Reclaiming Our Narrative, a panel discussion featuring Evan Narcisse, Ytasha Womack, and Robert O’Hara. Dr. Ilyasah Shabazz gave remarks, and baritone Will Liverman performed an aria from the X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X.
Opera Evolved Series
Tuesday, October 24, 8PM
In a partnership with National Sawdust, the Met presents a preview of X and Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas. Elena Park moderates a discussion with Anthony Davis and Andrea Puente, Catán’s widow, with performances by baritone Will Liverman and soprano Ailyn Pérez. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
Marathon Reading of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as Told to Alex Haley
October 29, 6–12AM
Metropolitan Opera House
On October 29, artists from across the creative spectrum, including William Haley, Dr. Ilyasah Shabazz, students from Harlem School of the Arts, artists from the opera, and many more, embark on an 18-hour continuous reading of the landmark Autobiography of Malcolm X, as Told to Alex Haley, which lays out the extraordinary life of the fiery, outspoken civil rights leader. The event is free, but registration is required. Click here for more details.
Anthony and Thulani Davis in Concert
Thursday, November 2
The Paris Review
Anthony and Thulani Davis present a private concert of jazz improvisations and spoken-word poetry at the office of The Paris Review, an award-winning magazine of prose, poetry, interviews, and art founded in 1953.
On the Page: Representing Black Muslim Life
Wednesday, November 15, 6:30PM
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Malcolm X, also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, is undoubtedly one of the most recognized Black Muslim figures in the United States. Join the Schomburg Center for a conversation with educator and oral historian Zaheer Ali (American Muslims: A History Revealed), Dr. Donna Auston, and X conductor Kazem Abdullah as they explore the current scope of Black Muslim life in literature and staged productions. The evening will feature a performance by baritone Will Liverman, who portrays Malcolm X in the new production. For more information, click here.
Fridays Under 40
The Met’s Fridays Under 40 series continues on November 24 with a party ahead of the evening performance of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. Available exclusively for operagoers 40 and under, the event features complimentary wine, themed activities, and more. For further details, please click here.
X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X Worldwide Broadcasts in Cinema, Radio, and Online
The performance of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X on Saturday, November 18, will be transmitted live to movie theaters around the globe as part of the Met’s Live in HD series.
The November 3, 14, and 24 performances of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X will be broadcast live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on Sirius XM channel 355. Audio from the November 3 and 24 performances will also be streamed live on the Met’s website, metopera.org. Audio from the November 18 performance will be rebroadcast over The Robert K. Johnson Foundation–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network on February 3, 2024.
For More Information
For further details on X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, including casting by date, please click here.