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Theatre Fri Nov 13 2009

Hopera: A Fallen Hero

When I first witnessed the union of hip-hop and opera years ago through violinist Miri Ben Ari, I remember being amazed at how beautifully the two genres of music blended together. In Hopera: A Fallen Hero, the magic of hip-hop and opera exists to tell the tale of the challenges faced by many inner-city youth.


Hopera (hip hop and opera) is set in Chicago and centers around many of the struggles young inner-city families deal with on a regular basis. The story chiefly follows Obadiah (Donald Manuel) and the relationship he has with his single mother, Erica (Amanda Renee Davis). Theirs is a story that confronts the issues a single woman contends with trying to raise a teenage son. She frequently discourages and insults him ("You're lazy just like your daddy" and "You need to get a job to help out around here") but on the other hand laments, through a beautiful operatic number (that could only be heard intermittently due to the awesome live band playing a bit too loudly), "I can't raise him and teach him to be a man."

Obadiah manages to suppress how he feels about his mother's discouragement (he recognizes how his father's absence affected her, too), but he shows that even he can only take so much. Despite his dreams to become a New York Times best-selling author, he eventually begins to believe that he won't amount to anything. During his number, he sings, "I'm only 17 years old; there is too much weight on my back." Fortunately for him, he has a male teacher who also serves as a role model who tells him that he can be anything he wants to be.

A turning point in the play involves Darren (T.K. Richardson) and his pregnant girlfriend Keisha (Kim Purdue). They are the typical young couple in love; however, Darren is immature and clearly not ready to be a teen father. Keisha seemingly realizes this, but tries to keep pushing through to make the best of the situation. Soon, the young couple's future comes to an abrupt, tragic end when Darren is senselessly killed-something that has sadly become commonplace lately.

After learning of Darren's murder, Obadiah, his best friend, vows to "take care of things." Keisha emphatically objects, perhaps realizing that ultimately, no good comes from revenge. This objection segued into what was clearly the show-stopping part of the play: Keisha's solo scene. She illustrated, through song, the challenges faced by a teenage mother who is left alone to raise a child. Purdue's "gospelesque" vocals were both moving and powerful, literally bringing the audience to its feet. What was even more heart-wrenching was when Darren's ghost appeared to catch a glimpse of what she was really going through.

Through the gun violence, teen pregnancy and fatherlessness, the play does have its happy ending when Obadiah graduates from high school, and through song, illustrates that despite some hard knocks, you really can make it--if you want to.

The play ended with the entire cast performing an operatic chorus that asked, "When will all this killing end?" Of course, there is no real answer to this question, but Hopera at least has the guts to ask.

The play is at the DuSable Museum of African-American History, 740 East 56th Place, through Sunday, November 15th; show times vary. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 773.947.0600.

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G. BROWN / November 17, 2009 9:29 PM

Again, Mrs. Williams. You're pieces never cease to amaze me. "Hopera: A Fallen Hero", was true to life and your commentary made me feel like I was there and witnessed the whole story. Kudose to everyone involved in this story. Our generation needs this education of life.

Doc / October 9, 2010 9:36 PM

I would have like to see this one. I saw another 'Hip Hopera' that was anything but...

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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