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This live film screening at Hudson River Park’s iconic Pier 63 will feature BREATHING FREE, a stunning visual album focusing on Black empowerment in the arts.

Hudson River Park is thrilled to co-present “BREATHING FREE” in partnership with Heartbeat Opera. This screening, taking place on HRPK’s Pier 63, features excerpts from Beethoven’s Fidelio, Negro Spirituals and songs by Harry T. Burleigh, Florence Price, Langston Hughes, Anthony Davis and Thulani Davis performed by three soloists, three dancers, eight instrumentalists and more than 100 incarcerated singers from six prison choirs. The “grippingly produced” (Boston Globe) series of music videos manifests a dream of justice, equity… and breathing free.


Breathing Free began with a series of questions: How do we make opera that sings and embodies “Black Lives Matter”? What if we collaged works by Black composers and lyricists with excerpts from Fidelio and called it a virtual-theatrical song cycle? Or, even better, a visual album? How do we meld opera-making and film-making? And during a pandemic? What if there were panel discussions?

Breathing Free has blossomed out of tough questions and challenging times. A devoted team of more than 30 artists has come together to ask these questions of each other, of our history, of our art forms and about our future. We have wrestled with Zoom, recorded in closets, waited in line for COVID tests… and we have drawn nourishment and purpose from a shared mission: to uplift Black artists and to celebrate opera during dark times.

Creating this work over the past two months has been humbling. Making music and building trust are challenging projects when you’re collaborating on Zoom. Not to mention during a pandemic and a frightening election. But this community of artists kept showing up, kept digging deep, kept striving for beauty and truth.

Breathing Free is our protest. It is the imperfect and often painful work of taking anti-racist action. It is our artistic fight for survival. And it is an offering—a gift—for you. We share this virtual experiment with love and with hope that you will find inspiration in these songs, this film, these questions and conversations. The work continues.

Ethan Heard is a director, producer and teacher who makes theater to build community and foster love. He is Co-Founder & Artistic Director of Heartbeat Opera, “a categorically imaginative company, which has made its name with vital reshapings of repertory operas” (The New Yorker). He teaches acting and directing at Yale School of Drama and Yale Institute of Sacred Music.

Anaiis Cisco is a filmmaker and assistant professor of moving image production in film and media studies at Smith College. She received a Masters of Fine Arts in cinema from San Francisco State University, where she was awarded a 2018 Princess Grace Award (Louis D. Srybnik Film Award) for her graduate thesis film, Drip Like Coffee. Cisco’s work focuses on the experiences of underrepresented racial, ethnic, queer and gendered identities.

Ras Dia is an arts producer and curator who specializes in multi-disciplinary arts programming. He is the Assistant Producer of the Metropolitan Opera’s Peabody and Emmy award-winning Live in HD series seen in movie theaters in 70 countries worldwide, and recently helped produce the Jessye Norman Celebration for the Met and the Ford Foundation, with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Renée Fleming, Anna Deveare Smith, Gloria Steinem and many others, gathering to pay tribute to the remarkable artist.

To ensure the safety of all patrons of Hudson River Park during the COVID-19 pandemic, we ask that anyone who is not vaccinated please wear a mask or face covering at Hudson River Park events when not able to maintain a six-foot distance from others.

Aerial view of man in forest opening his arms to the sky. Photoshoot for film presentation BREATHING FREE at Hudson River Park

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Saturday, Sep 18
7:00 PM
In partnership with: