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Designed by Elizabeth van Os
Nevertheless We Persist was originally conceived as a live celebration of the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, but has steadily transformed into a virtual concert program with an even larger purpose. Through the lens of classical music and opera, we wish to draw attention to intersectional issues in the fight for women’s equality and civil rights by examining the characterization, treatment, and disenfranchisement of women in both the real world and in the stories we tell on the operatic and concert stage.
Underscored by the piano music of Clara Schumann, we learn about under-recognized and influential suffragists, such as Sojourner Truth, the Grimké Sisters, Ida B. Wells, and Anna Julia Cooper. In Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, women are viewed as disposable objects, and in Francis Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias, a woman’s only chance at freedom is to transform herself into a man. Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking duet depicts Sister Helen Prejean’s lifelong dedication to truth, justice, and healing, no matter the circumstances. Local activist and poet Ruth Leonard performs three original spoken word/film pieces which celebrate and affirm Black women’s and girls’ wonder and worth in a world that does not always recognize and value them. Finally, Lori Laitman’s witty and empowering song cycle for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, Are Women People?, explores the women’ suffrage movement through settings of Susan B. Anthony’s speeches, and text from the 19th Amendment.
Women’s suffrage was an eighty-year struggle, which continues to this day. As citizens of our democracy, our vote is a powerful tool in exercising our ability to self-govern, to build civil coalitions, and to influence policy that directly affects the lives of our families, our communities, our nation, and the world. From women filling factories in World War II, to their significant role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, to the predominantly female healthcare workers fighting tirelessly on the front lines of COVID-19, women deserve to be treated as equal and powerful contributors to our society and have their voices and stories heard. In this critical moment in our history, we offer Nevertheless We Persist as a musical reflection on the women's suffrage movement, examining our past in order to seek a better future for all women.