Interview with Davóne Tines

Interview with Davóne Tines

Rob interviewed Davóne Tines, a creator, curator, and performer at the intersection of many histories, cultures, and aesthetics, he is engaged in work that blends opera, art song, contemporary classical music, spirituals, gospel, and songs of protest, as a means to tell a deeply personal story of perseverance that connects to all of humanity, and they discuss his work, inspirations and practice.
Heralded as "[one] of the most powerful voices of our time" by the Los Angeles Times, bass-baritone Davóne Tines has come to international attention as a path-breaking artist whose work not only encompasses a diverse repertoire but also explores the social issues of today. As a Black, gay, classically trained performer at the intersection of many histories, cultures, and aesthetics, Tines is engaged in work that blends opera, art song, contemporary classical music, spirituals, gospel, and songs of protest, as a means to tell a deeply personal story of perseverance that connects to all of humanity. 
Davóne Tines is Musical America’s 2022 Vocalist of the Year. During the 2022-23 season, he continues his role as the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale’s first-ever Creative Partner and, beginning in January 2023, he will serve as Brooklyn Academy of Music’s first Artist in Residence in more than a decade. In addition to strategic planning, programming, and working within the community, this season Tines curates the “Artist as Human” program, exploring how each artist’s subjectivity—be it their race, gender, sexuality, etc.—informs performance, and how these perspectives develop throughout their repertoire. 
In the fall of 2022, Tines makes a number of important debuts at prominent New York institutions, including the Park Avenue Armory, New York Philharmonic, BAM, and Carnegie Hall, continuing to establish a strong presence in the city’s classical scene. He opens his season with the New York premiere of Tyshawn Sorey’s Monochromatic Light (Afterlife) at the Park Avenue Armory, also doubling as Tines’ Armory debut. Inspired by one of Sorey’s most important influences, Morton Feldman and his work Rothko Chapel, Monochromatic Light (Afterlife) takes after Feldman’s focus on expansive textures and enveloping sounds, aiming to create an all-immersive experience. Tine’s solo part was written specifically for him by Sorey, marking a third collaboration between the pair; Sorey previously created arrangements for Tines’ Recital No. 1: MASS and Concerto No. 2: ANTHEM. Peter Sellars directs, with whom Davóne collaborated in John Adam's opera Girls of the Golden West and Kaija Saariaho’s Only the Sound Remains
Tines’ engagements continue with Everything Rises, an original, evening length staged musical work he created with violinist Jennifer Koh, premiering in New York as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. Everything Rises tells the story of Tines’ and Koh’s artistic journeys and family histories through music, projections, and recorded interviews. As a platform, it also centers the need for artists of color to be seen and heard. Everything Rises premiered in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles in April 2022, with the LA Times commenting, “Koh and Tines’ stories have made them what they are, but their art needs to be—and is—great enough to tell us who they are.” This season also has Tines making his New York Philharmonic debut performing in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, led by Jaap van Zweden. Tines returns to the New York Philharmonic in the spring to sing the Vox Christi in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, also under van Zweden. 
Tines is a musician who takes full agency of his work, devising performances from conception to performance. His Recital No. 1: MASS program reflects this ethos, combining traditional music with pieces by J.S. Bach, Margaret Bonds, Moses Hogan, Julius Eastman, Caroline Shaw, Tyshawn Sorey, and Tines. This season, he makes his Carnegie Hall recital debut performing MASS at Weill Hall, and later brings the program to the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, Baltimore’s Shriver Hall, for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and as part of Boston’s Celebrity Series. 
Concerto No. 1: SERMON is a similar artistic endeavor, combining pieces including John Adams’ El Niño; Vigil, written by Tines and Igée Dieudonné with orchestration by Matthew Aucoin; “You Want the Truth, but You Don’t Want to Know,” from Anthony Davis’ X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X; and poems from Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Maya Angelou into a concert performance. In May 2021, Tines performed Concerto No. 1: SERMON with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He recently premiered Concerto No. 2: ANTHEM—created by Tines with music by Michael Schachter, Caroline Shaw, Tyshawn Sorey, and text by Mahogany L. Browne—with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Also this season, Tines performs in El Niño with the Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by composer John Adams; a concert performance of Adams’ Girls of the Golden West with the Los Angeles Philharmonic also led by Adams; and a chamber music recital with the New World Symphony.
Going beyond the concert hall, Davóne Tines also creates short music films that use powerful visuals to accentuate the social and poetic dimensions of the music. In September 2020, Lincoln Center presented his music film VIGIL, which pays tribute to Breonna Taylor, the EMT and aspiring nurse who was shot and killed by police in her Louisville home, and whose tragic death has fueled an international outcry. Created in collaboration with Igée Dieudonné, and Conor Hanick, the work was subsequently arranged for orchestra by Matthew Aucoin and premiered in a live-stream by Tines and the Louisville Orchestra, conducted by Teddy Abrams. Aucoin’s orchestration is also currently part of Tines’ Concerto No. 1: SERMON. He also co-created Strange Fruit with Jennifer Koh, a film juxtaposing violence against Asian Americans with Ken Ueno’s arrangement of “Strange Fruit” — which the duo perform in Everything Rises — directed by dramaturg Kee-Yoon Nahm. The work premiered virtually as part of Carnegie Hall’s “Voices of Hope Series.” Additional music films include FREUDE, an acapella “mashup” of Beethoven with African-American hymns that was shot, produced, and edited by Davóne Tines at his hometown church in Warrenton, Virginia and presented virtually by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale; EASTMAN, a micro-biographical film highlighting the life and work of composer Julius Eastman; and NATIVE SON, in which Tines sings the Black national anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” and pays homage to the ’60s Civil Rights-era motto “I am a man.” The latter film was created for the fourth annual Native Son Awards, which celebrate Black, gay excellence. Further online highlights include appearances as part of Boston Lyric Opera’s new miniseries, desert in, marking his company debut; LA Opera at Home’s Living Room Recitals; and the 2020 NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards.
Notable performances on the opera stage the world premiere performances of Kaija Saariaho’s Only the Sound Remains directed by Peter Sellars at Dutch National Opera, Finnish National Opera, Opéra national de Paris, and Teatro Real (Madrid); the world and European premieres of John Adams and Peter Sellars’ Girls of the Golden West at San Francisco Opera and Dutch National Opera, respectively; the title role in a new production of Anthony Davis’ X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X with the Detroit Opera (where he was Artist in Residence during the 2021-22 season) and the Boston Modern Opera Project with Odyssey Opera in Boston where it was recorded for future release; the world premiere of Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons’ Fire Shut Up In My Bones at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; the world premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s Crossing, directed by Diane Paulus at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; a new production of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex at Lisbon’s Teatro Nacional de São Carlos led by Leo Hussain; and Handel’s rarely staged Aci, Galatea, e Polifemo at National Sawdust, presented in a new production by Christopher Alden. 
As a member of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC), Tines served as a co-music director of the 2022 Ojai Music Festival, and has performed in Hans Werner Henze’s El Cimarrón, John Adams’ Nativity Reconsidered, and Were You There in collaboration with composers Matthew Aucoin and Michael Schachter.
Davóne Tines is co-creator and co-librettist of The Black Clown, a music theater experience inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem of the same name. The work, which was created in collaboration with director Zack Winokur and composer Michael Schachter, expresses a Black man’s resilience against America’s legacy of oppression—fusing vaudeville, opera, jazz, and spirituals to bring Hughes’ verse to life onstage. The world premiere was given by the American Repertory Theater in 2018, and The Black Clown was presented by Lincoln Center in summer 2019.
Concert appearances have included John Adams’ El Niño with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin under Vladimir Jurowski, Schumann’s Das Paradies und die Peri with Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony, Kaija Saariaho’s True Fire with the Orchestre national de France conducted by Olari Elts, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas leading the San Francisco Symphony, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Royal Swedish Orchestra, and a program spotlighting music of resistance by George Crumb, Julius Eastman, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Caroline Shaw with conductor Christian Reif and members of the San Francisco Symphony at SoundBox. He also sang works by Caroline Shaw and Kaija Saariaho alongside the Calder Quartet and International Contemporary Ensemble at the Ojai Music Festival. In May 2021, Tines sang in Tulsa Opera’s concert Greenwood Overcomes, which honored the resilience of Black Tulsans and Black America one hundred years after the Tulsa Race Massacre. That event featured Tines premiering “There are Many Trails of Tears,” an aria from Anthony Davis’ opera-in-progress Fire Across the Tracks: Tulsa 1921.
Davóne Tines is a winner of the 2020 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, recognizing extraordinary classical musicians of color who, early in their career, demonstrate artistic excellence, outstanding work ethic, a spirit of determination, and an ongoing commitment to leadership and their communities. In 2019 he was named as one of Time Magazine’s Next Generation Leaders. He is also the recipient of the 2018 Emerging Artists Award given by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and is a graduate of The Juilliard School and Harvard University, where he teaches a semester-length course “How to be a Tool: Storytelling Across Disciplines” in collaboration with director Zack Winokur.

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Creators and Guests

Rob Lee
Rob Lee
naturally curious and a storyteller
Davóne Tines
Davóne Tines
Davóne Tines is an American operatic bass-baritone, known for creating roles in new works and for his collaborations with director Peter Sellars.

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