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William Grant Still

Black opera pioneer

Born May 11, 1895, Woodville, Mississippi
Died December 3, 1978, Los Angeles, California
About William Grant Still

One of America's most important early black composers, William Grant Still's music is undergoing a revival. Yet to be revived, however, are his operas. Still composed nine, one of which, Troubled Island, was the first opera composed by an African-American to be performed by a major national opera company; it premiered at the New York City Opera, in 1949, with a libretto by Langston Hughes.

  • Blue Steel
    Libretto by Bruce Forsythe.
  • A Bayou Legend
    Libretto by Verna Arvey.
  • A Southern Interlude (1942)
  • Costaso
    Libretto by Verna Arvey.
  • Troubled Island, opera in three acts
    Libretto by Langston Hughes after his play The Drums of Haiti.
    March 31, 1949, New York City Opera, New York, New York
  • Mota
    Libretto by Verna Arvey.
  • The Pillar
    Libretto by Verna Arvey.
  • Minette Fontaine
    Libretto by Verna Arvey.
  • Highway One, U.S.A.
    Libretto by Verna Arvey.

Discography Search for recordings of the music of William Grant Still at Amazon.com

William Grant Still

Highway One

St. Olaf Orchestra/Brunelle

CD / Albany (2005)

Bibliography Search for books by and about William Grant Still at Amazon.com

William Grant Still

"The drums weave the spell of death" from Blue Steel (for soprano, contralto, baritone, and chorus)

"To polish and shine" from Troubled Island (For soprano, mezzo, and two contraltos)

"Because faint whisperings of practices" from A Bayou Legend (for bass, two tenors and one baritone)

"Calm as the waters of the bayou" from A Bayou Legend (for soprano and tenor, with chorus)

"Ave Maria" from Costaso (for tenor and baritone)

"I knew why you were coming" from Minette Fontaine (for soprano, contralto, and chorus)

"Listen, Mary, trust me!" from Highway 1, U.S.A. (For soprano and baritone)


Arias, Duets and Scenes from the Operas, Volume 3: Duets and Scenes (compiled and edited by Beverly Soll)

William Grant Still Music 1998

Still, Dabrishus, & Quin

William Grant Still: A Bio-Bibliography

Greenwood Publishing 1996

William Grant Still

"See the trees" from Blue Steel (for baritone)

"Why do you laugh, Vuval?" from Troubled Island (for baritone)

"I dream a world" from Troubled Island (for bass)

"Drums in the court" from Troubled Island (for baritone)

"Children of the world" from A Bayou Legend (for tenor)

"More lovely than my imagining" from A Bayou Legend (for tenor)

"A wand'ring beggar came" from Costaso (for tenor)

"Must I die for my boldness?" from Mota (for tenor)

"Hear me, hear my plea!" from The Pillar (for tenor)

"A dream wasted" from Highway 1, U.S.A. (for baritone)

"What does he know of dreams?" from Highway 1, U.S.A. (for tenor)


Arias, Duets and Scenes from the Operas, Volume 2: Arias for Tenor, Baritone and Bass (compiled and edited by Beverly Soll)

William Grant Still Music 1998

William Grant Still

"Give me no body without your soul" from Blue Steel (for soprano)

"Little black slave child" from Troubled Island (for mezzo)

"'Tis sunset in the garden" from Troubled Island (for soprano)

"In ages past" from A Bayou Legend (for soprano)

"Now they will be coming to the tree" from A Bayou Legend (for mezzo)

"Golden days" from Costaso (for soprano)

"This strange awakening" from Mota (for soprano)

"Who can tell what fate?" from Mota (for mezzo)

"I have two loves" from Minette Fontaine (for soprano)

"Once a little child" from Highway 1, U.S.A. (for mezzo)


Arias, Duets and Scenes from the Operas, Volume 1: Arias for Sorpano and Mezzo Soprano (compiled and edited by Beverly Soll)

William Grant Still Music 1998

Beverly Soll

I Dream a World: The Operas of William Grant Still

University of Arkansas Press 2005

Last update: January 1, 2009