Composer Cynthia Cozette, a Pittsburgh native now living in Philadelphia, presents her first one act opera titled “Adea,” which plays for one performance only at 3 p.m., Sunday, October 9 in the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, 2110 Chestnut Street. There is no charge for admission and a free will offering will support the church’s community outreach programs. A reception will follow the performance in Merz Hall.
Cozette, who earned a master’s degree in music composition from the University of Pennsylvania, wrote the music and the libretto for “Adea.” In addition to directing the piece, she will accompany the fully-staged production on piano. The costumes and scenery were designed by Cozette’s sister, Hazel Lee.
Written in English, “Adea” (pronounced Ah-day-ah) is “a life drama about a small family coping with the complexity of poverty and crime.” The story is about Adea Johnson, a woman who guides her family through difficult times with her belief the life is filled with hope. “I’m a modern composer, but I do write melodies and harmonies, so that makes it unique,” Cozette said in a recent interview.
The cast includes dramatic soprano Hazelita Fauntroy, who appears in the title role, as well as lyric soprano Evette Jones, who sings the roles of Peaches and Mrs. Jones; lyric tenor Richard Smith, who appears in the role of Scoopy; George Braxton, basso profundo, sings the role of Eddie the loan shark; and lyric tenor, Barry Currington performs the role of Andre.
Cozette, who is inspired by the work of contemporary composer Gian Carlo Menotti, is excited about the opportunity to work with Fauntroy, a well known artist in the Philadelphia area.
“I’ve known her professionally now since 1977, when I met her the same evening as Menotti. She was professionally trained at the Academy of Vocal Arts, and not only can she sing, but she is an excellent actress. There are opera singers who have beautiful voices, but are really not that great of an actress. Hazelita has both talents. She’s not only a singer, but she’s an actress, and I need someone with both for this production of ‘Adea.’”
Cozette has definite goals for “Adea,” stating, “Ultimately, I would like to see it staged by a professional opera company if possible. It is a concert honoring my mother also. She also gave to charities and everything through her lifetime, so every year I’ve been trying to have a memorial event for her. So I decided to take my first one-act opera and perform that. Her name is Grace Garner Lee.”
For opera lovers, and particularly for first time opera-goers, “Adea” is an excellent choice for a Sunday afternoon of entertainment and culture. “It’s a rarely told story with African Americans,” Cozette said in conclusion. “Yes, there are other contemporary composers that have written operas. I’m sure you’ve heard about “Margaret Garner,” but opera is still a rarely told story when it deals with African-American themes. Here we have two of the foremost singers in the area to have Barry and Hazelita in the lead roles — this is an historic event!”