Show artwork for Death - Digital Short

Death - Digital Short Death - Digital Short

Composed by Tyshawn Sorey, to a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar

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Digital Short

A new Digital Short in three acts

Directed by the celebrated filmmaker Nadia Hallgren, this short film gives us a peak into composer Tyshawn Sorey's creative process. Using simple and spare musical forcesa solo voice and piano—Sorey crafts a ravishing, reflective setting for a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906).

LA Opera's newest Digital Short unites Hallgren's striking visuals and Sorey's intriguing harmonies, as the verses of the most influential Black poet of a past generation take on newfound resonance for the present day.


Tyshawn Sorey "transcends the borders of jazz, classical and experimental music."

Alex RossNew Yorker

Creative Team

Tyshawn Sorey
Nadia Hallgren


Amanda Lynn Bottoms
Howard Watkins

Notes and Text

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Notes and Text

A Note from the Creators
Our film explores "Death," a poem originally featured in Paul Laurence Dunbar's 1903 verse collection, Lyrics of Love and Laughter. The text details its speaker’s seeming dread of each new day. Even as night feels like a daunting wilderness of “tangled deeps,” the speaker is haunted again by each new daybreak—a heart-wrenching realization. Matched with and inspired by Dr. Tyshawn Sorey's beautiful and transcendent score, a setting for piano and mezzo-soprano, the film works to capture the poem’s spirit and propel it further: sorrow, in the ascendant.

By Paul Laurence Dunbar

Storm and strife and stress,
Lost in a wilderness,
Groping to find a way,
Forth to the haunts of day

Sudden a vista peeps,
Out of the tangled deeps,
Only a pointthe ray
But at the end is day.

Dark is the dawn and chill,
Daylight is on the hill,
Night is the flitting breath,
Day rides the hills of death.

This project is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and from a consortium of donors to LA Opera’s Contemporary Opera Initiative, chaired by Barry and Nancy Sanders.

Artwork for Death - Digital Short
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