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Works by Geter and Barnes impress in Russell Thomas recital presented by LA Opera


"The more melodically and emotionally complex half featured a trio of world premiere works commissioned by Thomas: To Harlem With Love by Dave Ragland, Annunciation by Damien Geter, and Love and Light by Jasmine Barnes. All three works were composed in 2022. . . The recital was beginning to feel like too much sugar. Then came Geter’s Annunciation, to an exceedingly homoerotic text by Joshua Banbury. It was here that Thomas finally exhibited the level of vocal emotionality and expressive freedom he had discussed in his interview. This was a love song inspired by lust and sweat: graphic, honest, and passionate.


The score, conducted by Lucas Nogara, evokes the intricate harmonies, rhythms, and textures of Benjamin Britten and Samuel Barber. This is music that grabs the listener, as when Thomas sang, “Into my room, he reascends. Into my room and it begins. All at once like some fever dream. He comes in to engender me. Into my room he reascends. Into me. And it begins.”

This was a song that was both lovingly romantic and emotionally dangerous, with Thomas as our guide into forbidden territory. “How the fruitful form moves in mine. Man in man together. Limp in ecstasy divine.” Finally exhausted, lust turns to reverie: “I will take you to a lake. Undress in the morning light. Leave nothing in our wake. Undress beloved. ... As sunlight burned on the lake, he moved in me. Ah.”

Barnes’s Love and Light, which concluded the recital, further explored the freedom of coming out to face one’s true self. “A shadow of fear, not allowed to shine. I’ve mastered threat in silhouette” — a sentiment reminiscent of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and the smoldering spirit in the pages of James Baldwin — gay, Black, and proud.

It was refreshing. It was engaging. It was exciting."




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