Skip to main content


Southern Crossings: a New Chamber Opera

dateJune 18, 2022 timeSaturday, 7:30pm–9:00pm EDT locationGerald W Lynch Theater
  • Currently, there are two performances scheduled:
    June 16, 2022 - 7:30pm
    June 18, 2022 - 7:30pm

  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Columbia University’s Institute for Ideas and Imagination
  • Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
  • Barnard College
email address [email protected]
Title, participants, and date of events over background of stormy sky

6 characters. 3 stories. 1 divided world.

In the century of discovery, of empire and emancipation, six characters confront each other with their fears and doubts about what science demands, and what it may cost them and those whose world it is about to transform.

Framed by the opening aria sung by a former slave named January, Southern Crossings is a chamber opera that takes audiences back in time, to 1836, when the famed astronomer, John Herschel and his wife, Margaret, are about to return to England from Cape Town where, two years earlier, they had hosted Charles Darwin on his return voyage on the Beagle. Darwin took inspiration from Herschel to tackle ‘the mystery of mysteries’; Herschel hoped Darwin would join his crusade for abolition. Nonetheless, the dinner was not a great success. While packing with January and Leah, whom the Herschels have manumitted and who now await their freedom in a period of mandatory apprenticeship, Margaret recalls the dinner in the dream-image of what might have been, while corresponding with John’s aunt, the famed astronomer, Caroline Herschel. As she does so, January and Leah have their own conversation about what they overheard that evening (tales of people abducted from Tierra del Fuego and animals they have never seen), and what they desire for a future after bondage.

Music by Zaid Jabri
Libretto by Yvette Christiansë and Rosalind Morris
Directed by Crystal Manich
Conducted by Mark Shapiro

Glenn Seven Allen, Jesse Blumberg, Kearstin Piper Brown, Sarah Heltzel, Juliet Petrus, Kevin Thompson

Flux Quartet
With Maciej Frackiewicz And Jared Soldiviero

Event website: