American Opera: Breaking the Sound Barrier

Course Dates: 
Last 4 weeks: April 26, May 3, 10, 17, 2018
Thursdays, 2-5 p.m.
Patricia Heuermann
Bill Heuermann
Course Catalogs: 
2018 Spring

We will focus on four individuals who confronted racial segregation and prejudice in the world of American music. In the first two session, we will listen to operas by two African American composers: Treemonisha by Scott Joplin and Troubled Island by William Grant Still. Both composers suffered deliberate indifference, prejudice and enormous difficulty in seeing their works performed but were ultimately successful. In session three and four, our attention shifts to two performers who are icons in both music and American culture. Paul Robeson—athlete, singer, actor, lawyer and political activist—raised his deep and powerful bass voice for social change as few others in the 20th century. When Marian Anderson, perhaps the most important African American singer of the 20th century, lifted her contralto voice at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter 1939 and later became the first African American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955, she opened the way for all black artists who followed.

Patricia Heuermann (, a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, has directed opera, theatre and cabaret performances throughout the United States and Europe. She has taught at Emory University, Manhattan School of Music, Hofstra University and the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. Since moving to Asheville, Pat has directed productions for Asheville Lyric Opera, Opera Creations and Asheville Community Theatre. Bill HeuermannBill Heuermann ( filmed, edited and created DVDs of Patricia’s opera productions from 1996 to 2008—including inserting subtitles in many cases. He has co-taught The Met at the Movies from 2009 to the present. Bill assists in planning the materials to be shown in class and provides the technical support.