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Groundbreaking Supreme Court case to get opera treatment

Mildred Loving and her husband, Richard P. Loving, are shown on Jan. 26, 1965. In 1967, the ruling in the Lovings' Supreme Court case officially legalized interracial marriage.
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Mildred Loving and her husband, Richard P. Loving, are shown on Jan. 26, 1965. In 1967, the ruling in the Lovings' Supreme Court case officially legalized interracial marriage.

When Mildred and Richard Loving married in 1958, Virginia police arrested them – because he was white and she was Black. The couple was forced to move to Washington, D.C. where their marriage was legal. But they wanted to return home to their families in Virginia, so they sued and fought for their right to marry before the Supreme Court.

Their case was the focus of a 2016 movie. Now it will also be an original opera.

Organizers have commissioned music from Virginia-born composer Damien Geter. Speaking at a press conference this month, Geter says the story is important to not just Virginia, but to the world.

“And it is right in line with everything I do as a composer in terms of forwarding the cause of social justice through music," Geter says. "And speaking of forwarding things I think that Virginia Opera, Richmond Symphony, I commend you for commissioning new works because this is the only way that the art is going to continue to move forward.” 

The opera will premiere across Virginia in 2025.

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This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is Radio IQ's Richmond reporter and bureau chief. She's covered policy and politics from the state capital since 2016. She was a 2020-2021 recipient of the Fulbright Young Journalist Award. She spent a year in Munich, Germany researching memory, justice, and how a society can collectively confront its sins. Her Virginia-based coverage of home healthcare workers, voting rights, and Richmond’s Slave Trail have won national news awards.