Upcoming Community Events: Take Me Out to the Opera!

Join Michigan Opera Theatre for Take Me Out to the Opera: a series of events leading up to The Summer King celebrating groundbreaking African American artists and athletes who paved the way for integration in their fields.

Upcoming Events: 

Take Me Out to the Opera: An Evening with Michigan Opera Theatre

A free concert inspired by The Summer King featuring selections from the opera, and music from Josh Gibson’s era. MOT singers will be joined by members of Hamtramck High School’s Choir and Band in celebration of the school’s R.I.S.E Grant, given by NBC to select schools nationwide.

Saturday, May 5 • 6:00 PM  • FREE! 
Hamtramck High School
11410 Charest St, Hamtramck, MI 48212 


Arts and Sports Youth Clinics

In celebration of Hamtramck Stadium, one of only a handful of historic Negro Leagues stadiums still in existence, and a location where Josh Gibson played, MOT is partnering with Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium and the Detroit City Football Club to bring baseball, softball, soccer, cricket, and dance clinics to young people.

Hamtramck Stadium
3201 Dan St, Hamtramck, MI 48212


Negro Leagues Weekend at Comerica Park (a Detroit Tigers event)

June 8-10, 2018


Selected Past Events

The Sun Was Always Shining Somewhere: Life in the Negro Leagues

Film Screening and Q&A with Director Donn Rogosin

Join us for a free film screening of “There Was Always Sun Shining Someplace: Life in the Negro Baseball Leagues.” Q&A with director Donn Rogosin will follow.

Winner of national and international awards, this documentary features interviews with baseball Hall of Famers Satchel Paige, James ‘Cool Papa’ Bell, Buck Leonard, Judy Johnson, Monte Irvin and Ray Dandridge. Praised by the national press, this compelling film chronicles the rich history of the Negro Baseball Leagues that flourished before Jackie Robinson integrated the major leagues in 1947. The exploits of these talented athletes and the times when baseball was a segregated sport are vividly brought to life. There Was Always Sun Shining Someplace contains rare historical footage showing the ballplayers as they traveled the back roads of America, The Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America. It is an unforgettable journey.

Thursday, April 26  • 7:00 p.m. 
Detroit Opera House – Chrysler Black Box Theater
Please RSVP to cknapp@motopera.org

Take Me Out to the Opera event

DVDs of “There was Always Sun Shining Someplace” available for purchase at Refocus Digital Media.


Negro Leagues Exhibit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

An exhibit on the Negro Leagues will open at the Charles Wright Museum in partnership with the Josh Gibson Foundation and the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium. Items will be on display through June.

Beginning May 1 


Opera & Jazz: The Summer King

Michigan Opera Theatre is thrilled to return to Cliff Bell’s for an evening of opera and jazz. The evening is in anticipation of MOT’s upcoming production of “The Summer King” which tells the story of Negro Leagues baseball legend Josh Gibson, considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Artists from Michigan Opera Theatre and area musicians will offer an evening of jazz and opera from the 1920s-40s that highlight the soundscape of Josh Gibson’s world and celebrate trailblazing African American artists like Marian Anderson and Florence Price. Artists from Michigan Opera Theatre will be accompanied by Sonya Belaya and joined by the Tbone Paxton Trio.

Wednesday, April 18  • 7:00-10:00 PM – $10 cover
Cliff Bell’s | 2030 Park Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
For reservations: 313-961-2543

Take Me Out to the Opera event

I, Too, Sing America: A Celebration of African American Artists & Athletes

An afternoon of beautiful music and compelling conversation in Rosedale Park 

Join Michigan Opera Theatre at the Rosedale Park Community House for I, Too, Sing America: A Celebration of African American Artists & Athletes. Through live music, poetry, narrative, and video, this innovative performance highlights the stories and achievements of African American artists and athletes who defied limitations and paved the way for integration in their fields. An engaging panel discussion will follow the performance where speakers, performers, and audience will consider: What has classical music traditionally meant for African American individuals and communities? How has it played a role in bridging racial divides and promoting healing? And how do we, today, move toward a fuller incorporation of those pursuits in our world?

Sunday, April 22
3:00 p.m. – Performance & Panel Discussion
4:30 p.m. – Reception & Opportunity to meet artists and speakers

Rosedale Park Community House
18445 Scarsdale St, Detroit, MI 48223

FREE – Ticket required – CLICK HERE

Take Me Out to the Opera event


For more information on community events, please contact
Andrea Scobie
Manager of Education and Community Programs



“The Summer King” Tickets and Information

May 12-20 at the Detroit Opera House
Music by Daniel Sonenberg
Libretto by Daniel Sonenberg and Daniel Nester, with additional lyrics by Mark Campbell

Exploring the Role of Arts and Sports in Social Equity and Inclusion

By Erica Hobbs

In April 2017, Pittsburgh Opera premiered a groundbreaking work: The Summer King, a new opera based on the life of Negro Leagues baseball player Josh Gibson. While he may not be a household name, Gibson was a legend in his own right. As a power hitter with a batting average higher than .350, said to hit almost 800 home runs in his 17-year-career, some called him the “Black Babe Ruth.” He was bound for the Major Leagues.

Of course, that is not what happened. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier to become the first African-American baseball player to play for Major League Baseball. It was a reality that Gibson lived to see, heartbroken that he wasn’t the one to do it.

While Robinson has gone down in the history books, Gibson, like far too many African American figures, was excluded the narrative. With The Summer King, composer Daniel Sonenberg wanted to change that, and so did Michigan Opera Theatre.

In June of 2017, MOT announced Take Me Out to the Opera, a collaborative initiative with a goal of not only sharing Gibson’s story, but the stories of other African American trailblazers. With a range of community partners, the campaign highlights figures in both sports and the arts and explores how the two have been used to promote racial equity and inclusion.

“One of the opportunities available through arts and sports is an ability to bring people together, especially across racial divisions,” said MOT CEO Wayne S. Brown. “We are proud to work with community partners to celebrate those athletes and artists who, like Josh Gibson, were catalysts for change in their communities.”

Throughout the past year, MOT has worked with the Detroit Tigers, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Historical Society, the Detroit Public Library, the Josh Gibson Foundation, Rosedale Park Community House and Hamtramck Stadium to present a series of exhibits, panels, performances and presentations on these themes.

Local figures, including George Shirley, the first African American tenor to perform a leading role at the Metropolitan Opera, and Ron Teasley, a former Negro Leagues baseball player with the New York Cubans and the Olean Oilers, have shared their experiences breaking racial boundaries. Local experts such as Wayne State University Associate Professor Dr. Lisa Alexander, a researcher in African Americans in popular culture, and University of Michigan Musicologist Mark Clague, also a researcher in African and Afro-American Studies, have discussed racial representation and inclusion in a larger historical and cultural context. And programs like “I, Too, Sing America” have celebrated African American artists and athletes through poetry, narrative, song and video.

“This has been an incredibly unique opportunity to shine a light on the role arts and sports have played in breaking down barriers for people of color,” said Ellen Hill Zeringue, Vice President of Marketing for the Detroit Tigers. “We are excited that the community will learn about the moving story of Negro Leagues and Hall of Fame player Josh Gibson through the upcoming Detroit premiere of “The Summer King.

The initiative has also focused on children through residencies in local schools. The program allows students to create their own operatic piece which relates the history of Detroit’s own Negro League baseball team with modern-day themes of equity and inclusion.

“Knowing that Hall-of-Famer Josh Gibson played baseball at Hamtramck Stadium is a home run for the hometown crowd,” said Hamtramck Public Schools Superintendent Tom Niczay. “I’m hoping Hamtramck Public School students learn about a historical event, regarding the prejudice African-Americans faced, and that the lessons learned in watching The Summer King are relevant in 2018.”

Additional events continue to be added and will be updated on the community page of the MOT website www.MichiganOpera.org.

While the initiative may end with The Summer King, the goal of the campaign does not. MOT invites the community to join them in continuing to identify, share and celebrate those who have fought for social equity and inclusion, past, present and future.

Take Me Out to the Opera is sponsored by Knight Arts Challenge, PNC Bank, Michigan Humanities Council,
and The Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation