top of page

I Can't Breathe

World Premiere

February 24, 25, & 26, 2022

"I Can't Breathe" is an opera that explores themes of grief, loss, love, identity, and hope. It was inspired by and written in the wake of repeated instances of fatal police brutality. The stories told are NOT dramatizations of any real-life incident. Instead, we meet six fictional characters from different walks of life, each named for a different archetype. Lives that in one way or another are forever changed when innocent interactions with law enforcement go wrong. The opera highlights how things like good manners, a clean-cut appearance, and compliance with orders too often can't protect people of color from being treated as inherently dangerous. Six vignettes portray different facets of the African American experience and ultimately seek to answer the question, "How many more"? 

The Knoxville world premiere is being produced by Marble City Opera in partnership with the Carpetbag Theatre, Inc. and the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. The production is led by an all-African American creative team comprised of the Carpetbag Theatre, Inc.'s Executive Artistic Director, Jonathan Clark as stage director; Production Manager for Opera Huntsville and UTK Graduate School of Music alum, Sierra Hammond as assistant director; as well as Garrett McQueen, Executive Producer/Host of the "Trilloquy" podcast and former WUOT host and KSO bassoonist as conductor, and Brandon Coffer as music director and rehearsal pianist. 

Marble City Opera conceived and commissioned the opera and will host the world premiere. An agreement negotiated by MCO Founding Executive Artistic Director Kathryn Frady will allow three other companies, Opera Columbus, Cleveland Opera Theatre, and Pacific Opera Project, to present separate productions of the opera following the Knoxville world premiere.


The opera has received support from the Tennessee Arts Commission, the East Tennessee Foundation, WUOT, the City of Knoxville, the Lowery Family Fund, Hyatt Place Knoxville, the University of Tennessee School of Music, and is sponsored in part by Sylvia & Jan Peters.

Download the program

Meet the Creative Team & Cast

Special Thanks to Our Production Partners & Sponsors:

Sylvia & Jan Peters, the Lowery Family Fund

Hyatt Place logo
Vert Blue on White (screen)_edited.jpg
bottom of page