by John Stoehr
I've learned since the opening of Amistad last week that Michael Forest, the tenor who plays the Trickster God, a key and technically tricky role in Anthony Davis' revision of the 1997 opera, was a late addition to the production. While other cast members began rehearsing in February, Forest was brought in in March.
There's more. The libretto to Amistad is highly symbolic and Forest's Trickster God is really complicated (his role raises the level of the story to that of myth; he is responsible for the Africans being captured and sold into slavery; he forgets that he's a god during the trial to argue for the Africans' freedom; he eventually abandons them even though they remain devoted to him). I've learned that librettist Thulani Davis (Anthony Davis' cousin) wasn't brought in to help Forest understand the Trickster God's complex psychology until deep into rehearsals.