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Melvin Van Peebles Bringing “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” To The Stage As An Opera

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act May 9, 2012 at 6:04PM

Long-tiome readers will remember our mention of this in early 2010 soon after I got word that it opened at the Sons d’Hiver Festival in Paris, France. 
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Sweetback opera

Long-tiome readers will remember our mention of this in early 2010 soon after I got word that it opened at the Sons d’Hiver Festival in ParisFrance

I'm talking about Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song - A Hood Opera - a performance that's backed by the music of Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber led by Greg Tate.

2 years later, last week specficially, I had the opportunity to chat with the maestro himself, Monsieur Melvin Van Peebles, in his Manhattan digs, and Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song - A Hood Opera came up in our conversation. 

A summary of that nearly 2-hour chat will be shared here on S&A in a few days, once I've had a chance to listen to it all over again, and do some transcribing.

But in the meantime... I just had to alert you to this specific revelation; So here's what you need to know for now. 

According to Mr Van Peebles and his partner on the project Kevin HarewoodSweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song - A Hood Opera is coming to the USA, with preparations being made for that to become a reality. They are shooting for a New York premiere in 2013, and are confident it'll happen.

I should note that, as Melvin made Kevin and I aware during our chat, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song was ALWAYS meant to be an opera, something I was never at all aware of, and I'm guessing the same goes for most of you as well.

But this could certainly be interesting; The film undoubtedly has its place in the cinema history, regardless of how polarizing it continues to be among audiences. It served a purpose at the time of its initial release, and arguably helped usher in the wave of 1970s so-called blaxploitation flicks that followed.

And I'm curious to see exactly how Mr Van Peebles and company are going to present what we've long regarded as a movie, into an opera production.

I should note that the stage certainly isn't new territory for renaissance man Van Peebles; his stage musical Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death, from 1971, brought gritty portraits of black urban life to Broadway; and in 2004 he revived it with the Classical Theater of Harlem.

Stay tuned... my full report from our lengthy chat will be posted in a few days.

The above photo was taken during my meeting with him; it's the original album cover for Sweetback.


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