Opera Philadelphia

The impact of We Shall Not Be Moved

By Opera Philadelphia

A year after the opera The New York Times deemed one of the best classical music performances of 2017 premiered, We Shall Not Be Moved is about to be presented at Opera on the Mall for free to a whole new audience.

Below, the artists of We Shall Not Be Moved reflected on their experiences bringing the work to life.

"Working on MOVED was one of the most profound artistic endeavors I have had in my career thus far. It was truly a pleasure to be surrounded, every day, by such a wide range of virtuosic artists working at the top of their crafts and doing so in an effort to bring this story to stage. And really, it's the story itself that made all of us work so hard. We were uniquely aware of how important the work was, how careful we needed to be in handling such a delicate tale and we felt, all the while, so honored to be carrying it forward. "

- Lauren Whitehead, "Un/Sung"


Ultimately, what they all wanted was to be loved and to give love.  John Blue, chiefly, was looking for acceptance in a world, where it seemed as if no one wanted to see him as who he IS - a young man.  In our world, today, these issues are ever present, and I’m so incredibly proud that I’ve gotten to be a part of such an amazing story of love, loss, redemption, and making the choice to be set free.  The audiences in Philadelphia, New York and Amsterdam have given this production 5 stars, and I cannot wait to see where we go next.  

- John Holiday, "John Blue"

"I can’t begin to express to you the outrageous JOY that was flowing through our rehearsals yesterday. We are all so very grateful to be here, with one another, doing this incredible thing again. I just really want you to know how much this means to all of us."

- Kirstin Chavez, "Glenda"


"I was invited into the project by composer Daniel Bernard Roumain and librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph. This was exciting on several levels: The first was working with younger artists in disciplines differing from my own. Secondly, I had the opportunity to immerse myself into the reality of the historical MOVE event and to work with my two collaborators to contextualize this event into a fictionalized music drama. To date, I am not sure of the work’s impact, although I can say most audiences have been engaged and moved by the story Marc, Daniel and I have fashioned. In the talk backs after performances in Philadelphia, New York and Amsterdam, we were made aware of how each of these communities are coping with the issue of police violence in minority neighborhoods, the educational system and young urban people as well as questions of art and justice."

- Bill T. Jones, Director-Choreographer

“This opera, WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED, points out a lot of racial indignations, a lot of injustices, a lot of double standards based on race that go on in this very country, and that’s why this opera needs to continue on, because those things have to be talked about and if we continue to present a space where those things can be discussed, then I think true healing can occur.”

– Michael Bishop, "OG"


"I have never been involved with a piece so meaningful and necessary to the local and national dialogue. After one of our performances at the Wilma, a gentleman raised his hand during the talk-back, introduced himself, and went on to explain that he is a retired firefighter who was actually on the scene during the 1985 MOVE bombing. Prohibited by his superiors from extinguishing the flames, he explained that he has carried intense guilt and shame for the last 33 years. He broke down into tears, and - referring to the OG's in our show who represent the spirits of those lost in 1985 - told us, 'the ghosts healed me.'  I realized that we'd done something with MOVED that was much larger than ourselves.  We helped a community talk - and heal."

- Daniel Shirley, "John Little"

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