The Mother – A Cantata for Ferguson (11/19/14)

The Mother: A Cantata for Ferguson

Based on Bertolt Brecht and Hanns Eisler’s “The Mother”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 8 PM

Marsh Chapel at Boston University

“They believe it will soon be over if they weaken the weakest.
But one day soon, change will come.”

What does political opera mean to us today? Do works of the historical avant-garde still resonate? The Mother: A Cantata for Ferguson interweaves Brecht/Eisler’s revolutionary cantata with new texts written by Boston University undergraduates about the shooting of Michael Brown and protests in Ferguson, MO.

Bertolt Brecht and Hanns Eisler wrote “The Mother” at a moment of extreme political upheaval. The Nazi Party was gaining power in Germany, and Brecht and Eisler would soon have to flee. The Mother shows their hope for radical changes in society, changes that opera and theatre might help bring about. With this performance, we ask: what does this sort of political theatre mean to us today? Is it outdated, a museum piece? Or can it speak to contemporary issues of social justice?

The event will begin with a performance (c. 45 minutes) that interweaves Brecht/Eisler’s cantata “The Mother” with documentary material about the life and death of Michael Brown and subsequent events in Ferguson. Following the performance, a roundtable panel will discuss the political power of performance and how we might look back to Brecht and Eisler’s works today.

Project Director: Minou Arjomand Assistant Professor of English, Boston University

Choral Conductor: Ekaterina Anoshkin PhD Candidate, College of Fine Arts, Boston University

Musical Director: Raphael Fusco Composer, collaborative keyboardist, and conductor

Featuring: Veronica Williams as the Mother and Thaddeus Bell as the Son


  • William Banfield Professor of Africana Studies/ Music and Society, director of the Center for Africana Studies and programs, Berklee College of Music and BU STH alum. An award winning composer, jazz guitarist/recording artist, he has authored five books for Scarecrow Press.
  • Raphael Fusco Musical director of “The Mother in Ferguson,” Fusco is a composer, collaborative keyboardist and conductor. His work has been commissioned by members of the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the String Quartet of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and numerous others. This fall, Fusco will join saxophonist Branford Marsalis and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia in a national tour.
  • Pamela Lightsey Associate Dean for Community Life and Lifelong Learning at BU’s School of Theology. She is a scholar, social justice activist, and military veteran whose academic and research interests include: classical and contemporary just war theory, Womanist theology, Queer theory and theology, and African American religious history and theologies. Her live streamed videos from the Ferguson protests can be watched here.
  • Martin Puchner Byron and Anita Wien Professor of Drama and of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University.

Sponsors: BU Center for the Humanities, Arts Grant from the BU Arts Initiative – Office of the Provost, African American Studies, Center for the Study of Europe, Jewish Cultural Endowment, School of Theology, Department of English, and Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literatures.


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