Opera Review: Sanctuary Road: Brave Souls Given Strong Voice From A Dark Past

“Immerse yourself in the powerful operatic experience of ‘Sanctuary Road’ as the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, led by maestro Everett McCorvey, brings to life the remarkable stories of William Still and the Underground Railroad. A captivating blend of music and storytelling unfolds on stage, offering a transformative glimpse into the quest for freedom.”

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s overture was led by maestro’s Everett McCorvey, an exhilarating musical commentary to Kimille Howard’s compassionate visual storytelling through her direction. Howard is a New York based director, writer and filmmaker. Howard is the Assistant Stage Director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Leading off as the documentarian, William Still was reenacted by baritone Damien Geter in his VOA (Main Stage) debut. His commanding presence was transformative. His disciplined perseverance, haunting, as he commands himself to record first hand the harsh realities of slavery and escape of those enslaved, “Write it down.”

Also making a VOA debut was Laquita F. Mitchell, Soprano Soloist. With Mezzo-Soprano Soloist Tesia Kwarteng, Tenor Soloist Terrence Chin-Loy, and Baritone Adam Richardson made for a near ensemble cast presentation were it not the choreography and synergy of the 39-member chorus.

According to its production notes, Sanctuary Road is based on the “remarkable” writings of William Still – an abolitionist, historian, and conductor of the Underground Railroad who helped nearly 800 enslaved Blacks escape to freedom. This moving piece includes locally originated stories of Clarissa Davis, who fled Portsmouth, VA, Henry “Box” Brown, who fled Richmond, VA, along with the account of several other men and women who risked it all in pursuit of freedom.

With music by Paul Moravec, Libretto by Mark Campbell, were actually based on the writings of William Still, who was considered a conductor, moreover, a documentarian for the Underground Railroad.

If you have a love of history, the arts and, specifically affinity for opera, it’s worth the effort to see “Sanctuary Road” at its next stop this weekend in Fairfax, VA Saturday, February 3 and Sunday’s matinee performance February 4 at George Mason University or Richmond the following weekend Friday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, February 11 @ 2:30 p.m. For details visit voa.org.

“Write it down!”

Original Article
By Glen Mason
The New Journal & Guide