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African American Experiences in Opera

About the Opera

Picture of Tawawa House cover

Tawawa House tells the story of a real-life resort hotel in Wilberforce, Ohio, that became Wilberforce College, the first black-owned college in the United States.

While composing the opera, composer Zenobia Powell Perry was inspired by her heritage and her research into the history of Wilberforce, Ohio. The opera explores the relationships between the white guests, the black employees at the resort and the lives of escaped enslaved people who sought refuge there. Perry's score fuses traditional Negro Spirituals with western classical music.

The opera premiered in 1987 at Central State University. The first fully staged production with sets and a complete score was performed in 2014 at the Townsend Opera in Modesto, California.


Reviews and Analysis

Pool, Jeannie Gayle. “Tawawa House: Restoration of an African American Opera.” Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music 22, no. 1 (March 2016): 5–8.

Price, Deon Nielsen. “Premiere of Zenobia Powell Perry’s Opera.” Composer USA 20, no. 1 (Fall 2014): 7. 

Price, Deon Nielsen. “Zenobia Powell Perry Opera Premiered.” Triangle of Mu Phi Epsilon 108, no. 4 (Winter 2015): 18.