"I Can't Breathe"

Music by: Leslie Burrs/Libretto by: Brandon J. Gibson

World Premiere


Marble City Opera

Knoxville, TN

February 24-26, 2022

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"I Can't Breathe" is a brand new social-justice themed opera that was inspired by and written in the wake of repeated instances of fatal police brutality perpetrated against African Americans. It tells the stories of six individuals from different walks of life. Lives that are forever changed by innocent interactions with law enforcement gone wrong. It highlights how manners, appearance, education, and compliance are often not enough to protect people of color from a system that too often treats them as inherently dangerous. Six vignettes portray a striking and multi-faceted reflection of the African American experience before coalescing to ask the question, "How many more"? 

The Knoxville world premiere is being produced by Marble City Opera in partnership with the Carpetbag Theatre, Inc. and the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. It features an all-African American creative team comprised of the Carpetbag Theatre, Inc.'s Executive Artistic Director, Jonathan Clark as stage director; as well as Garrett McQueen, Executive Producer/Host of “Trilloquy” as conductor, in addition to composer, Leslie Savoy Burrs and librettist/Marble City Opera Managing Director, Brandon J. Gibson.

A consortium of four opera companies including Marble City Opera commissioned the work, and it will be produced separately by each company after the world premiere in Knoxville with Marble City Opera. 

Knoxville Partner links:

The Carpetbag Theatre, Inc.

Beck Cultural Exchange Center                  

Consortium Companies:

Marble City Opera                                     

Cleveland Opera Theater                          

Opera Columbus                                     

Pacific Opera Project                            


Additional links:

Composer: Leslie Savoy Burrs                                                

Conductor: Garrett McQueen                                               

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