HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - The Virginia Opera and the Richmond Symphony announced Monday that they have co-commissioned an operatic retelling of Loving v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage.
The opera, which will premiere across Virginia in 2025, tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, who were sentenced to prison for marrying each other in 1958. The Lovings' marriage was illegal in Virginia due to the state's Racial Integrity Act of 1924.
The Lovings appealed their conviction to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which upheld the conviction. However, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision overturning their conviction in 1967, marking a major victory for civil rights in the United States and setting precedent for the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage with Obergefell v. Hodges.
“Mildred and Richard Loving made my own family possible," said Jessica Murphy Moo, the librettist for the Loving v. Virginia opera. "What an honor and responsibility it is to be part of a team telling their story. Think for a moment about what they achieved—they were only two people and yet they stood up to legalized racism and enacted lasting change. Their story is an inspiration. And it’s also an opera! The vision they were working toward—equality, home, love—these subjects are part of opera’s vast terrain. I know that composer Damien Geter’s music will make us all feel—in new ways—the weight and importance of the Lovings’ contribution to racial justice in America.”
“As a native Virginian, the historical significance of Loving v. Virginia has remained with me since I was a teenager, but I’m finding there are many who are unfamiliar with this landmark case," Damien Geter, Loving v. Virginia's composer, added. "Coming back home to Virginia and collaborating with Virginia Opera (the company where I first experienced opera) and working with Jessica Murphy Moo to tell the story of Mildred and Richard Loving is important not only for the sake of honoring their legacy, but also for ensuring the future of the art form.”
Beginning in November 2022, a series of workshops will mark progress in the commissioning process. The workshops will be held over the next three years to review the development of the libretto, vocal writing, orchestral score and production design.
The culmination of this work will be celebrated with the world-premiere tour at Norfolk's Harrison Opera House, Richmond's Dominion Energy Center and Fairfax's Center for the Arts at George Mason University.