An opera exploring the intersection of systemic racism and mass incarceration.
Commissioned and Produced by White Snake Projects
Cerise Lim Jacobs
Creator and Librettist
White Snake Projects and its 2020-2021 programs programs are supported in part by a grant from the Boston Cultural Council and administered by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.
Death by Life is made possible in part by a CARES Act grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Key art based on "Freedom Cost," used by permission of artist Renaldo Hudson. Learn more about "Freedom Cost"
Read the reviews!
"There may be no better medium than opera to present these stories. No mythical gods or exaggerated madness is needed: reality is enough. In Death by Life, lived experience is the guide, with the intention to look beyond obvious horror to highlight the human spirit."
"Strip away the remarkable visuals and technological wizardry, and Death by Life is the stuff of which opera is made."
We acquired the rights to several stories from incarcerated writers and their words form the basis of the libretto. We commissioned five Black composers to tell these stories.
"There are over 200,000 of us/ And we are brilliant/ We’re stripped of everything/ But survive by invoking/ A different kind of love/ A different kind of hope/ A different kind of dream, A different kind of life"
The Chorus of the Incarcerated by Eric Blackmon
Almost immediately, my inbox filled with statements of support for Black Lives Matter. White Snake Projects did not want this moment to pass without a concrete response, to make a memorial through what we do best – making new opera. We issued a call to action and convened a brain trust comprising diverse participants. Death By Life (Imprisonment) emerged, an opera exploring the intersection of systemic racism and mass incarceration. The virtual opera "Death by Life" was conceived as a monument of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The opera explores the intersection of systemic racism and mass incarceration using texts written by incarcerated writers and their families, with a score by five Black composers—Jacinth Greywoode, Leila Adu-Gilmore, Jonathan Bailey Holland, David Sanford and Mary D. Watkins—representing a broad range of ages and styles. The sets are immersive 3D environments created in Unreal Engine by Curvin Huber, White Snake’s Director of Innovation.
Featuring visual artworks by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated artists, this virtual gallery, To Breathe, is part of White Snake Project’s Death By Life series on “Understanding and Responding to Mass Incarceration” in collaboration with the Pozen Center Human Rights Lab. The title of our virtual exhibition, To Breathe, was inspired by Renaldo… Read More
Dear Friends of White Snake Projects: We are thrilled to announce three upcoming forums presented in partnership with the University of Chicago Human Rights Lab as a prelude to Death By Life. Each session will be free to attend and streamed over Zoom. Read about about each forum, and follow the links… Read More
Galvanized by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May, Cerise Jacobs and her activist opera company, White Snake Projects, began a process of development for a new production that would stand as a monument of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The result is the virtual… Read More
Cerise Jacobs and her activist opera company, White Snake Projects, are pleased to announce three online events leading up to the premiere of their new virtual opera, Death By Life. Conceived as a monument of support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of… Read More