The first season of the podcast examines the representation of Blackness in opera
New York’s classical music station WQXR recently launched its new podcast Every Voice with Terrance McKnight. This 16-part podcast series is hosted by writer, curator, pianist, and WQXR weekday evening host Terrance McKnight.
In it, McKnight explores marginalized voices, histories, and perspectives within the Western classical music tradition, with a focus on Black representation in opera.
Specifically, McKnight examines Black characters in the works of Mozart and Verdi – both of whom were writing these roles during the time of colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade.
“While character flaws are universal, stereotypes often fall along racial lines,” McKnight writes. “We look at the loneliness, jealousy, self-loathing, and cultural appropriation associated with African characters in 18th and 19th century operas by Mozart and Verdi….”
Those characters are then put side by side with the works of contemporary Atlanta-based composer Dr. Sharon Willis, who writes authentic operatic roles of African-American historical figures.
In the debut episode of Every Voice with Terrance McKnight, audiences are introduced to Dr. Sharon Willis, Dr. Uzee Brown, and others who are changing the way opera presents marginalized voices.
Every Voice with Terrance McKnight
Season 1 Episode 1 — “The Magic Flute: From Morehouse … to the opera house with Monostatos”
“Classical music is a broad label for music of a culture, but our own American definition has remained stubbornly tethered to the Western European tradition,” said Terrance McKnight. “In this debut season, I wanted to see what has been passed down to us through the operatic tradition in terms of Black representation, interrogate these characters who continue to appear every season on opera stages around the world, and honor the Black performers who have performed these roles. Even in a field as seemingly homogenous as Western classical music, there have always been other voices who have influenced the genre, sometimes unseen. Every Voice brings them to the forefront and celebrates this legacy.”