Born October 9, 1875, Cleveland, Ohio Died March 21, 1954, New York, New York
About Harry Lawrence Freeman
Harry Lawrence Freeman was one of the first important black composers for the operatic stage, and his first work, The Martyr, was the first opera ever produced by all-Black forces. Athough he was more successful in his lifetime than many of his contempraries, his work has since faded into obscurity. In addition to composing and conducting, he was an impressario and a teacher, teaching at Wilberforce University in Chicago and the Salem School of Music, and founding the Freeman School of Music and the Freeman School of Grand Operas. Many of his works were premiered by companies he founded, and starred his wife, Carlotta. As a prominent black musical citizen and opera composer, Scott Joplin consulted him regarding Joplin's opera, Treemonisha.
Freeman's three operas, Nada the Lily, Allah, and The Zulu King, formed a trilogy of Zulu history called Zululand, after the Zulu history novels of H. Rider Haggard. (Haggard's books are entitled Nada the Lily, Marie, Child of Storm, and Finished.) It is likely that Chaka, The Ghost Wolves, and The Storm Witch (all given in Hipsher but not in other sources) are early or inaccurate titles for these four operas. New Grove gives the total number of his operas at 14.
In addition to his operas, Freeman composed many works for other genres, including his symphonic poem, "The Slave", for orchestra and chorus. Contemporary reviews are often examples of the racist code used by the newspapers of the time; for example, one review of Voodoo was headlined: "'Voodoo,' Bizarre Work of Basic Music, In Premiere", and called the opera "a thing so hideously bizarre that it was beautiful." Anyone with more information on Freeman, including information on a radio broadcast of "Voodoo" on WGBS Chicago on May 20, 1948, please contact me.
The Martyr, opera in two acts Libretto by the composer. September, 1893, Freeman Grand Opera Company, Deutsches Theater, Denver, Colorado
Nada, opera in three acts Libretto by the composer. composed 1898 [unperformed]
Zuluki (revision of Nada) (composed 1898; premiere 1898)
An African Kraal, opera in one act Libretto by the composer. composed 1903 [unperformed]
The Octoroon, opera in four acts with prologue Libretto by the composer. composed 1904 [unperformed]
Valdo, opera in one act with intermezzo Libretto by the composer. May, 1906, Freeman Grand Opera Company, Weisgerber's Hall, Cleveland, OH
The Tryst, opera in one act Libretto by the composer. 1911, Freeman Operatic Duo, Cresccent Theater, New York, New York, Wampum: Carlotta Freeman; Lone Star: Hugo Williams
The Prophecy, opera in one act Libretto by the composer. composed 1911 [unperformed]
The Plantation, opera in three (four?) acts Libretto by the composer. composed 1915 [unperformed]
Athalia, opera in three acts with prologue Libretto by the composer. composed 1916 [unperformed]
Vendetta, opera in three acts Libretto by the composer. November 12, 1923, Negro Grand Opera Company, Inc., Lafayette Theater, New York, New York
American Romance, jazz opera (1927)
Voodoo, opera in three acts Libretto by the composer. composed c. 1914; premiere 1928
The Flapper, jazz grand opera in four acts (September 10, 1928, 52nd St. Theater, New York, New York, Lolo, the Voodoo Queen: Carlotta Freeman; Cleota: Doris Trotman; Mando: Ray Yates; cond. comp.)
Leah Kleschna Libretto by the composer after the play by C. M. S. McClellan. 1931 [possibly unperformed]