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UC San Diego Composer Introduces ‘Central Park Five’ Opera

In this Jan. 17, 2012 file photo, Yusef Salaam, left, Kevin Richardson, secon...

Credit: (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

Above: In this Jan. 17, 2012 file photo, Yusef Salaam, left, Kevin Richardson, second left, and Raymond Santana, right, react to supporters in New York. The three men who were exonerated in the 1989 Central Park Jogger case, were in court for a hearing in a $250 million federal lawsuit they filed against the city after their sentences were vacated. New York City has started releasing about 100,000 pages of documents connected to the notorious case of the five men whose convictions for raping and beating a Central Park jogger were overturned after they served more than a decade behind bars.

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Composer Anthony Davis and cast members will be performing excerpts from the "Central Park Five" opera and taking part in a talk on the subject Monday at 7 p.m. at UC San Diego's Mandeville Auditorium.

Aired: May 13, 2019 | Transcript

The story of the Central Park Five, a group of black and Latino teenagers wrongfully convicted of rape in the 1980s, and their eventual exoneration is as relevant today as it was when it happened 30 years ago. That's why UC San Diego music professor Anthony Davis said when he first saw a draft of a libretto of the story by Richard Wesley he decided to compose it as an opera.

"It's a recurring story. I mean, the idea of African American youths being falsely accused and their harassment by police," Davis said. "It's even getting worse in terms of government intervention with immigrants. So I think that this is a real issue and something that's really relevant to people who are often described as 'the other.'"

Photo credit: Long Beach Opera

UC San Diego music professor Anthony Davis in an undated photo.

Donald Trump even has a role in the opera, playing himself. In 1989 Trump took out full-page ads in several New York newspapers calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty and condemning the teens. Trump also spoke about the case while running for president in 2016 and said, in spite of the fact that the Central Park Five had been exonerated by DNA evidence, he still believed they were guilty.

The "Central Park Five," is Davis' eighth opera.

Anthony Davis and cast members will be performing excerpts from the "Central Park Five" opera and taking part in a talk on the subject at 7 p.m., Monday at UC San Diego's Mandeville Auditorium.

The opera will premiere in June at the Long Beach Opera.

Davis joins Midday Edition Monday to talk about the opera.

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