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Alabama opera ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’ makes television premiere

“Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” an original opera by Alabama composer Joseph Landers based on the classic book of the same name by author James Agee, was received with acclaim at its October 2019 debut performance as part of the state’s bicentennial celebration.

On Sunday, Sept. 20 at 2 p.m., Alabama Public Television will broadcast and livestream the opera, performed by the University of Alabama Opera Theater in collaboration with the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra at the Moody Concert Hall.

“We can’t wait to share this production with everyone in Alabama,” said Phil Hutcheson, APT interim executive director. “It’s an amazing story about Alabama, created here in Alabama, and featuring beautiful performances.”

“Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” features the stories of impoverished tenant farmers struggling to survive in Depression-era Alabama, yet it is also a story of hope. The characters face loss and tragedy, but they are not defeated.

In 1936, Agee and photographer Walker Evans chronicled the stories of rural families during the Depression. The notes and photographs became their book, published in 1941. The three families at the center of the book lived in Moundville, Tuscaloosa and Greensboro, but Agee gave pseudonyms to the people and the places.

Landers said he created the opera to celebrate the strength of these common working people and their families through cycles of success and hardship, never losing their dignity.

“We especially want to thank the Alabama Bicentennial Commission for helping to make it possible, and the Agee estate for permitting this broadcast,” Hutcheson said.

Only one broadcast of the opera is scheduled. It will also be livestreamed at aptv.org/watch

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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