Washington (AFP)

A renowned trumpet player and composer of many original soundtracks by filmmaker Spike Lee, Terence Blanchard makes history as the first Black to see one of his operas staged by New York's prestigious Metropolitan Opera.

This announcement "exceeds my person," he told AFP from his Washington hotel room, a few hours before receiving an award for his work, Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Competition & Gala.

The fact that the opera of a black composer is for the first time programmed 136 years after the opening of the New York music temple "says more about what is happening in our country, and in the world of art, "judge the 57-year-old artist.

"Fire Shut Up In My Bones" is the second opera of the jazzman. It could be played in the season 2021-2022.

"I feel like it's going to be something historic, and not because it's me," says the musician, 11-time Grammy winner and Oscar nominee.

- "A mixture of emotions" -

The man with the imposing eyeglass frame admits having felt a "mixture of emotions" when the announcement of this opera was made public.

"Although it's a real honor, we all know that I'm not the first African-American composer qualified to do an opera."

"Personally, it's something huge, especially from where I come from," says the New Orleans jazzman, describing the racial segregation that his father, an aspiring musician, was exposed to.

"From that - a person who never had the opportunity to sing opera, who did not have opportunities - and that his son all at once had an opera produced at + Met +, it's huge. "

The news came as the institution launched "Porgy and Bess", an opera centered on the lives of African-Americans, but written by whites.

Even in "the so-called progressive experience of the United States," society has "a long way to go in dealing with racial issues, equality," Blanchard said.

"Fire Shut Up In My Bones" is inspired by the memoir of New York Times columnist Charles Blow. The book tells the story of a black boy's rise to adulthood in the southern United States in the face of racism, violence and complex sexual identification.

Composing for such difficult stories requires "putting one's ego aside" and leaving the notes "out of one's own", says the trumpet player, also author of Harriet Tubman's biopic soundtrack, which has helped hundreds of slaves to flee the southern United States in the nineteenth century, "Harriet".

"You can not think of how people will react when you write," he says, with an effigy necklace around his neck.

"You have to think about this story - how can I relate to this story, how do I tell this story?", He explains.

- Friend of Spike Lee -

Terence Blanchard can also boast of having played with the greats: Herbie Hancock, Dr. John, Stevie Wonder ...

His long friendship with filmmaker Spike Lee has "made him grow in a way that (he) could never have imagined".

"It has a unique cinematic style," says Blanchard about the Oscar-winning director, known for "Do the Right Thing," "Malcom X," or "BlacKkKlansman," whose jazzman signed the soundtrack.

"The cinema helped me a lot to write for the opera, because I had the chance to write for an orchestra," says the artist.

Accustomed to juggling different projects, the musician says it is important to "not be limited".

"I want to leave this planet without regrets," he says. "And for me, regrets take root in fear (...) To overcome his fears, you have to go out and take risks".

© 2019 AFP