The Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited and the Long Beach Opera present Duke Ellington's play...
Queenie Pie is Duke Ellington’s only opera and one of his fairly unknown and rarely performed works. It blends big band sound and clever lyrics with the musical styles of opera, jazz, and musical theater. The title character, Queenie Pie, was inspired by the life of Madam C. J. Walker, the first female, African-American self-made millionaire, who developed and sold a line of hair and beauty products through innovative mail orders and door-to-door sales. Interested in the opera genre since the 1940s, Ellington started composing Queenie Pie in 1962, when he received a commission from the New York public TV station WNET. In collaboration with librettist Betty McGettigan, he worked on the opera until his death in 1974, but the work remained unfinished. Since then, different versions have been produced (1986 in Philadelphia and Washington, DC; 1993 in Brooklyn; 2008 by the Oakland Opera Theater; and in 2009 at the University of Texas, Austin).