On the morning of April 3, 1968, Martin prepares for a journey to Memphis to join striking sanitation workers in their protest for an improvement in their pay, treatment and working conditions. The night before he had a disturbing dream of a man who doesn’t retaliate even when viciously attacked. The image of a balcony — with a strange sense of destiny – dominates the dream, and a moment he knows he is not ready to face, but can’t explain, or see beyond.

As Martin and Ralph leave for the airport he begins to reflect on episodes of his life and searching for meaning to his dream. He starts with the early years of his story, remembering the harsh racism and segregation in the community of his childhood, his dear grandmother and the promise he made to her at her deathbed. It was a promise to love, one that set his life upon its present course.

His thoughts return to Boston University, the place where he formed his “love answer” to the persecution and injustice he saw. It was also the place he enjoyed the taste of freedom and met Coretta, the woman who would become his life partner. She would set out with him on a life adventure that first took them to Montgomery, Alabama where they would play a vital role in the 1955 bus boycott that began to change a nation.

As he continues his practical application of love to America’s social ills, he challenges the status quo, beginning a freedom revolution. Side by side, Martin, Coretta and Ralph march, facing stern and sometimes violent opposition, and eventually winning political success in Washington D.C.


As the trip to Memphis continues, Martin relives the most significant times he was celebrated and vilified — the struggles around him — the war within him and the loneliness and despair he often felt.  His thoughts take him from Birmingham to Selma where he led the people to take a stand and enact voting rights legislation that changed the course of American history. He remembers this kaleidoscope of events as he arrives in Memphis, where he would make the most poignant and emotionally draining speech of his life.

Just 36 hours after leaving home, he sits alone at the edge of his bed in a lonely motel room. He knows that outside his room is the balcony of his recurring dream.  The Dream has become reality; the moment he has seen in dream images is now the moment at hand.

Artistic Statement by Douglas Tappin

Artistic Statement by Douglas Tappin, composer/librettist of I Dream

I wrote and composed the libretto and score of I Dream while living in Atlanta, reading accounts of the Civil Rights movement and talking to many individuals who had been part of it, including members of Dr. King’s family and some of his closest friends. The experience was so visceral and so profound that I felt, literally, compelled to tell the story – one of the greatest stories in human history and, more particularly, a great American story of recent history.

In order to portray about 30 years of Dr. King’s life in a two-hour period, I needed all my resources as a musical-dramatic writer to set it as a rhythm & blues opera. I am using that term partly because that is what I set out to do, and also because I appreciate the need to label something, to define it, even though it is really just seamless storytelling using music and drama combined.

At the core of the story, is a plight that is one of injustice – the plight of the poor, the needy, the orphaned, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the stranger, the captive, the hated one, the ones who are persecuted … The most remarkable thing to me about the story is the way people chose to confront it was by using love, which is astonishing. And not just a theoretical concept of love, but love that was walked out in a strong, practical way.

The focus for I Dream is the 36 hours leading up to Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, and a series of dreams, reminiscences and premonitions … leading up to that point and beyond, right to the fateful moment on the balcony of Memphis’ Lorraine Motel. It is an exploration, challenge and articulation of the villain and the hero within the heart, humanity and façade of a man. It is a work that effectively bridges classical and popular traditions in its composition and orchestration …

I set out to create something artistically excellent (musically, lyrically and as a matter of production) and entertaining – a powerful, moving and inspiring operatic experience that is definitive, memorable and endures. Additionally, I wrote and composed I Dream to honor the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movement he inspired, to unite diverse individuals and institutions in understanding the prophetic message of Dr. King … by remembering Dr. King’s dream in the midst of contemporary culture, to move those who experience I Dream to live that dream by loving as Dr. King did

Meet the Composer

Douglas Tappin

Douglas Tappin (Composer and Librettist) is a writer and composer who was born and educated in the United Kingdom. A former commercial attorney and member of the Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn who practiced as a barrister (lawyer) in England for 11 years, Tappin earned his post-graduate degree from Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology. He also received a music theory certification from The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

Tappin’s unique approach to writing and composition is full of innovation. His authentic style is ideal for storytelling, arising from his analytical mind, literary background and gifted musicianship.

Tappin was inspired to write I Dream after poring over hundreds of books about and by Dr. King and interviewing those who knew him and advocated with him. What has emerged is a work of musical theater that tells the journey toward Dr. King’s push for nonviolence and continues through his legacy.

“As I imagined his life, I saw something clear; there was a plight,” Tappin said.

The composer said King wondered whether that plight would always exist and how best to impact change. He said the song “Victory by Love” tells the tale of nonviolence, but speaks to King’s own self-questioning that was born from leading a fight for change between two sects of people: those who felt complacency was the right approach versus those who felt action at all costs was the right approach.

“It is between those two opposing things that he found the right thing to do,” Tappin said. “The right thing to do at the right time, and we call that a dream.”


Douglas Tappin

I Dream is presented under license from Musical-Dramatic Arts, Inc.

James Meena


Tom Diamond


Michael Baumgarten

Lighting and Projection Designer

Kevin Depinet

Original Scenery Designer

Emilio Sosa

Original Costume Designer

Martha Ruskai

Wig and Makeup Designer

Naiman Kioski

Movement Coach

Valerie Wheeler

Production Stage Manager

Ease into Opera with the Student Night Experience

Student Night at the Opera is an unforgettable outing for K-12 students, families and traditional school and homeschool groups. With low cost tickets, some of the best seats in the Belk Theater, and timeless tales set to incredible music, Student Night is the perfect cultural experience for the Charlotte region’s youth!


  • Pre-Opera performances by local students
  • Q&A with cast members at intermission
  • English supertitles above the stage
  • Youth Guides to help you make the most of your evening
  • Great prices, great seats, and of course – great music!

How Do I Get Tickets?

College Student?

Check out our Student Rush tickets!

Learn More

Want to Experience More?

Download our educational guide