The Weight of Light

03 Jul 2024

Charleston poet and artist debuts first opera on national stage

By Rose Drill-Peterson

Photos by Michael Brosilow

Marcus Amaker, Charleston’s renaissance creative and the city’s first poet laureate, has now made his mark on Chicago. His opera, The Weight of Light, premiered there on April 27 at the Chicago Opera Theater to rave reviews.

I have followed the career of this wonderfully-creative person for 20 years. I have attended his talks, including one at the Charleston Jung Society, and my family and I have participated in his poetry workshops. So, it seemed fitting that a trip to Chicago to see his opera would be the perfect spring field trip.

My daughter and I were thrilled to be in the audience at the Epiphany Center for the Arts. Amaker’s libretto was a masterwork, sharing the same insights his poetry displays.

The Weight of Light tells the story of a mother, Dawn, and daughter, Emily, who share a magical familial ability—they can speak with objects. While Dawn views this ability as a source of shame to be kept hidden, Emily embraces it as a gift. As Emily learns to wield these powers, a rift opens between the generations. Mother and daughter must come to terms with each other’s worldviews as they navigate their abilities and the responsibilities that come with them in a touching coming-of-age story.

As usual with Amaker’s writings, the lessons in the opera go further than the characters. We are asked to look at our own lives and how we interact with others who may be different. We are charged with asking ourselves about our superpowers and how we might be suppressing them to “fit in.”

The music, composed by emerging composer Gillian Rae Perry over two years through the theater company’s Vanguard Initiative, was wonderfully innovative and lovely. Conducted by Chicago-based Alexandra Enyart, the cast included Chicago Opera Theater Young Artists soprano Hayley Fox as Emily, mezzo-soprano Michelle Mariposa as Dawn, tenor Karlos Piñero-Mercado as Trevor/Object 2, and baritone Louise Floyd as Object 3, with mezzo-soprano Leah Dexter as Object 1.

Before the opera premiered, there was a question-and-answer session with both Amaker and Perry. They described their marvelous collaboration in developing an English-speaking opera in today’s world. The opera performed to a full audience and received a standing ovation. Here’s hoping that The Weight of Light will be performed in Charleston and other cities. It is a work that deserves to be seen.

Aside from this opera, Amaker has published ten collections of poetry, including 2023’s Hold What Makes You Whole, my personal favorite. He has produced 40 albums of music, including a machine and its threads, released by an electronic music label based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His poetry is on two Grammy-nominated albums, and Amaker has recorded three albums with Grammy Award-winning drummer and producer Quentin E. Baxter.

In a most poignant work, he has written a song cycle about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with Grammy-nominated composer Shawn Okpebholo. Amaker has been inducted into the South Carolina Literary Hall of Fame and I can’t wait to see what he will produce next.

Prev Post Glorious Getaway
Next Post Summer Fun
Brookfield Residential