Atlanta BeltLine Brings Free Opera To The Public

Art on The Atlanta BeltLine and the Atlanta Opera organized the opera show coming to the BeltLine’s Westside and Eastside Trails. Photo credit: John Becker

A free, open-air opera performance is coming to the Atlanta BeltLine.

Soprano vocalists Jayme Alilaw and Minka Wiltz will be singing live at the “Our Walk to Healing: An Immersive Performance and Processional” on Saturday, Oct. 27. The goal of the event is to “celebrate survival and healing.”

“It’s an acknowledgment in song and movement of Atlanta’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, and actually lifting up the culture within the communities surrounding the BeltLine,” Atlanta Beltline Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Nonet Sykes said.

Art on The Atlanta BeltLine and the Atlanta Opera organized the event that will start at 10 a.m. at the White Street trailhead of the Westside Trail. At 1 p.m., the performance will recommence at Ponce City Market on the Eastside Trail. Attendees are encouraged to wear pieces that would have been worn during the Civil Rights Movement era.

The show will be narrated by Karcheik Sims-Alvarado, historian and curator of the “Atlanta and the Civil Rights Movement: 1944-1968” exhibit, which will surround the performance.

Minka Wiltz has been singing for 31 years. Photo courtesy of Minka Wiltz

“The pairing of them [the opera performance and the photo exhibit] just felt like a natural celebration and recognition of the influence of African-American women on the opera and musical landscape,” Sykes said.

The photo exhibit, located on the BeltLine until Dec. 1, is recognized as the nation’s longest civil and human rights exhibit, according to the Atlanta BeltLine.

“I wanted to create an exhibition that actually reflected the images of those who participated in the movement. The activists actually lived in the community where the exhibition is at,” Sims-Alvarado said.

For the opera performance, Alilaw and Wiltz chose traditional spirituals to help express the feelings of being disconnected and longing for hope.

“It takes them back to a place of comfort. It can also take them back to a place of community,” Wiltz said. “It’s very powerful to be able to use your body and your voice to tell these stories and to keep these stories alive when you’ve been persecuted for having them in the first place.”

Jayme Alilaw is an Atlanta Opera resident artist. Photo courtesy of Jayme Alilaw

Alilaw describes the operatic voice as one of the most powerful instruments.

“I think that’s a very potent tool for communication that can even go beyond the actual words that are being sung and has the power to penetrate into effect at a level deeper than just the mental understanding,” Alilaw said.

Sims-Alvarado wants for the music to uplift the audiences’ spirits and to mobilize them.

“I think music has a way of bringing us all together and allowing us to reflect on the movement and the sacrifices of those who were fighting for freedoms that we are actually enjoying today,” she said.

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