Anthony Davis, who premiered the piece at the Chicago Lyric Opera 11 years ago, told The New York Times that when he was preparing to restage it as the centerpiece of this year's Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in Charleston, S.C., its harsh racial language made some white attendees at the rehearsals uncomfortable.
With Charleston's history as a bastion of the former slave trade, Davis told the newspaper, "There's a sense of a lot of people trying to get beyond these words."
"Amistad" features white characters using the most derogatory of terms for black slaves. It's the story of the Spanish slave ship La Amistad in the time between 1839 and 1841, and concerns a group of West Africans captured as slaves who rose up against the ship's crew, killing most of them, and attempting to return to Africa.
Davis also told the Times he slimmed the production down from its former epic length, cutting several characters and generally tightening it up.
"It just involved too many people," he said.
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