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Art Fri Jun 24 2011

Hip-Hop & Opera: Like Bacon & Chocolate

By Rachel Metea.

It is easy to forget what led to the power and passion that unfolded onstage in HOPERA: Unleashed. Composer and vocalist Adrian Dunn's fusion of hip-hop and opera was the perfect blend, so much so that the merging of two genres that come from separate worlds becomes lost and forgotten.

The performance marks the return of the company's 2009 performance, Hopera: A Fallen Hero and features a series of numbers from the first studio album of hip-hop opera company, HOPERAWorld, released earlier this month.

adrian dunn hopera

Shakespeare's Obidiah King takes the stage as an African-American high school student in Chicago who dreams of becoming a New York Times best-selling writer. But amidst these dreams, struggles over family, violence, and race run wild.

Hopera Unleashed's deliverance of pain, sorrow, and love is stunning. A technique typically only practiced by jazz musicians, Dunn often turns his back on the audience, giving his attention and passion to the performers. It was beautiful to experience the emotion sweeping across the stage between the performers.

The hopera's message transcends across many facets within the music. At the start of the performance, Dunn says, "Love has been replaced between the races. The time to stop is now." A similar theme of patching together areas traditionally kept separate exists at the root of Hopera Unleashed -- its genre.

The harmony in Dunn's hip-hopera fusion calls into question how different hip-hop and opera really are. Violence and anguish tend to seep from both of their tales, illuminating the darker side of people's stories.

The combined forces of hip-hop and opera move you in a way that is not typically experienced in other genres. The voice of Othello's mother (played by Amanda Davis) sucks you in with its powerful belt and passionate wails. Just as Davis hits her high note, which causes the listener to feel as though they have been ripped onto stage, the rapping beats of Dunn suddenly leap into tempo with Davis' vocals. The audience is now marching in tune to their beat.

"Wow," said an audience member sitting behind me.

Cast members say they enjoy mixing the two genres because it delivers a positive message to today's youth.

"Hip-hopera brings more life to classical music," said Donald Manuel, who plays Obidiah King. "It is something different that a lot more young people can relate to."

Davis said their music helps expose children to classical, while still being cool overall.

"Our ancestors cared about each other," Davis said. "But now it seems to be about hate. We want to come together and utilize each other in our music because we are about the community."

The DuSable Museum of African-American History (740 E. 56th Pl.) celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sunday, June 26 with the return of Hopera: A Hip Hop Opera. The performance takes place at 6:30pm; tickets are $40 and can be purchased online. For more information, call 773-947-0600.

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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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