As part of the 50th anniversary season of the Great Performances series on PBS (channel 13 in NYC) and the PBS video app, Intimate Apparel will have its broadcast premiere this Friday, September 23, at 9 pm (check local listings for channel and time outside the New York metropolitan area). The opera, based on the 2003 play by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage and inspired by the life of her great-grandmother, was developed by Lincoln Center Theater and The Metropolitan Opera in the Met/LCT New Works Program. Sung in English and recorded live at LCT’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in March 2022, the production features a libretto by Nottage, music by Ricky Ian Gordon, and direction by Tony winner Bartlett Sher.
Soprano Kearstin Piper Brown, a native of Alexandria, Virginia, stars as Esther Mills, a single Black seamstress residing in a boarding house for women in 1905 Manhattan, who makes her living, and saves a great deal of money, sewing beautiful undergarments and corsets for a clientele of wealthy women and prostitutes. Though she is lonely and longs for a husband, she ultimately comes to the realization, through her journey of interactions with friends and clients, an impossible relationship with the Jewish shopkeeper from whom she buys fabric, and a failed marriage to a laborer on the Panama Canal, that her own self-reliance can get her through life’s challenges.
Directed for television by Gary Halvorson, the supporting cast features Justin Austin, Adrienne Danrich, Arnold Livingston Geis, Naomi Louisa O’Connell, and Krysty Swann. Concurrent with the broadcast, the show is available for streaming on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast, and VIZIO.
Theater-lovers and Shakespeare enthusiasts can also enjoy the preceding episode of Great Performances on PBS. This 50th season opened on September 16, with the broadcast of the Nashville Ballet’s Black Lucy and The Bard, which explores the mysteries of Shakespeare’s romances and the muses of his love sonnets – the “Dark Lady” and the “Fair Youth” – proposing that they were a Black woman and a young man, while investigating the themes of love, beauty, otherness, and equality.
Based on the poem “Lucy Negro, Redux” from the 2015 book by Caroline Randall Williams, who narrates with her spoken word poetry, the ballet, recorded in March 2022, is set to an original score by Grammy winner Rhiannon Giddens and co-composer Francesco Turrisi, seen on stage playing several instruments, including violin, banjo, mandolin, and piano. Choreographed and directed by Nashville Ballet’s artistic director Paul Vasterling, Claudia Monja leads the cast of company dancers as Lucy, along with Owen Thorne as Shakespeare and Nicolas Scheuer as Fair Youth. The 85-minute program streams through October 14, 11:59 pm, on the PBS website.