Last month, the Music Critics Association of North America (MCANA) honored Sweet Land with its 2021 Award for Best New Opera of 2020, recognizing its composers Du Yun and Raven Chacon and librettists Aja Couchois Duncan and Douglas Kearney. Los Angeles-based opera company The Industry produced and premiered Sweet Land in February 2020 in a production created with co-directors Yuval Sharon and Cannupa Hanska Luger.
The Best New Opera award plaques were presented during the MCANA Annual Meeting, a virtual and in-person event September 10–12 in Detroit, in collaboration with Michigan Opera Theatre.
The LA Times, The New York Times, and The New Yorker praised the premiere run of the opera at Los Angeles State Historic Park:
“opera as astonishment” — Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times
“a head-spinning abstraction of colonialism and whitewashed mythology” — Joshua Barone, The New York Times
“a gut punch” — Alex Ross, The New Yorker
MCANA Awards Attendees (from left): Yuval Sharon, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Du Yun, Raven Chacon, Douglas Kearney.
The diverse array of collaborators behind Sweet Land includes composers Du Yun — a Chinese immigrant whose opera Angel’s Bone won the Pulitzer Prize for music — and Raven Chacon — a composer and artist from the Navajo Nation who advocates for indigenous composers and musicians; librettists Douglas Kearney — a poet whose writing “pulls history apart, recombining it to reveal an alternative less whitewashed by enfranchised power” (BOMB Magazine) — and Aja Couchois Duncan — a mixed-race Ojibwe writer with a focus on social justice; director and costume designer Cannupa Hanska Luger — of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota, Austrian, and Norwegian descent who was raised on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota; and director Yuval Sharon — a MacArthur Fellow whose recent productions include Hopscotch, Invisible Cities, War of the Worlds, and Meredith Monk’s opera Atlas.
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