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