Great Barrington, Mass.—The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center is adding Heartbeat Opera’s Breathing Free visual album to its virtual programming schedule, on Saturday, May 15, at 7pm. The production will be followed by a live virtual talkback with the creators, Ethan Heard and Ras Dia. Attendance is free, but registration is required to receive the viewing link. 

Breathing Free is a visual album focusing on Black empowerment in the arts, featuring excerpts from Beethoven’s Fidelio, Negro Spirituals, and songs by Harry T. Burleigh, Florence Price, Langston Hughes, Anthony Davis, and Thulani Davis. 

In 2018, Heartbeat Opera collaborated with 100 incarcerated singers in six prison choirs to create a contemporary American Fidelio told through the lens of Black Lives Matter. In 2020 — the year of George Floyd’s murder, a pandemic that ravages our prison population, and the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth — the group curated a song cycle, brought to life in vivid music videos, mingling excerpts from Fidelio with Negro Spirituals and songs by Black composers and lyricists, which together manifest a dream of justice, equity… and breathing free.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer this beautiful, moving work to our audiences,” says Mahaiwe Executive Director Janis Martinson. “In Breathing Free, Heartbeat Opera rises to the challenges of opera’s demanding traditions, reaches deep into each song’s meaning, and infuses the work with brilliant fresh elements, all while moving from the strictures of the stage out into the wide world. Breathing Free manages, like the best of art, to be specific and universal, and ultimately deeply relevant.”

About Heartbeat Opera 

Ethan Heard (Co-Artistic Director & Producer) and Louisa Proske (Co-Artistic Director) founded Heartbeat Opera in 2014, after they graduated from Yale School of Drama’s directing program, to create radical adaptations of classic operas in intimate spaces for 21st century audiences. “One of the most agile and dynamic companies on New York’s indie opera scene” (Opera News), Heartbeat has already established itself as a highly respected, innovative force in the opera world. 

About the Mahaiwe 

Located in downtown Great Barrington, Mass., the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center is the year-round presenter of world-class music, dance, theater, classic films, Live in HD broadcasts, and arts education programs for the southern Berkshires and neighboring regions. The intimate jewel box of a theater opened in 1905. Since 2005, the performing arts center has hosted over 1,500 events and welcomed over half a million people through its doors. More than 22,000 students from 73 different schools have benefited from the Mahaiwe’s school-time performances and residencies. For more information, see

Leave a Reply