March 13, 2007

Another review of Wakonda's Dream

Native American legacy shines in 'Wakonda's Dream'"Wakonda's Dream," with an eloquent, powerful libretto by Yusef Komunyakaa, takes as its subject not Standing Bear's story but his legacy. Davis is the composer of operas about Malcolm X, Patty Hearst and the Amistad slave uprising. Komunyakaa is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who often relates contemporary struggles to history. Both are African American academics who take on complex issues in difficult work that accepts no simple solutions.

What they have done in "Wakonda's Dream" is to relate the Native American experience to the African American in the same way Verdi made Ethiopians and Egyptians essentially Italians in "Aida." There is no literal transference, of course. But opera is an art form uniquely qualified to apply the native language of one culture to illumination of another. And when the technique works, as it does in "Aida" and "Wakonda's Dream," the result is pan-cultural in a way that makes art personal and universal at the same time.

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