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KPBS Midday Edition

UC San Diego's Anthony Davis Wins Pulitzer For Central Park Five Opera

UC San Diego Anthony Davis in an undated photo.
UC San Diego Anthony Davis in an undated photo.
Anthony Davis, UC San Diego professor of music, has won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for music for his 2016 opera The Central Park Five.

The Pulitzer jury cited The Central Park Five as, "a courageous operatic work, marked by powerful vocal writing and sensitive orchestration, that skillfully transforms a notorious example of contemporary injustice into something empathetic and hopeful."

The opera tells the story of five African American teenagers who were accused, tried and convicted of the assault and rape of a jogger in Central Park in 1989. The case against them was vacated in 2002 when a serial rapist, Matias Reyes, confessed. The five were released after more than a decade in prison.

Davis told interviewer Cecil Lytle, music professor emeritus at UC San Diego, that he believes this case marked the beginning of Donald Trump's political career. After the arrests, Trump took out several full-page newspaper ads calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York. Trump is a character in the opera.


Davis is a musical polymath, composing not only several operas but symphonies and works for musical theater. He is also an accomplished jazz pianist.

Anthony Davis joined KPBS Midday Edition to talk about The Central Park Five, winning the Pulitzer Prize and the landscape for contemporary music today.