Wednesday, July 20, 2022


7:30 pm

Event Details

Presented in collaboration with the Des Moines Metro Opera, ‘American Apollo’ is a new opera based on a story forged at the crossroad of celebrity, class, race, and power in America, giving voice to a pivotal figure in American art: Thomas Eugene McKeller, a Black model who served as inspiration for the famous portraitist, John Singer Sargent. McKeller posed for most of the figures in Sargent’s murals at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, but the painter transformed McKeller’s figure into white gods and goddesses, creating soaring allegories of the liberal arts that celebrated the recent expansion of the city’s premier civic museum. Themes of erasure, the white gaze, and the nature of the relationship between the two men are explored in this powerful new work.

With special contributions from Sargent scholar Nathaniel Silver and drawing on the recent Gardner Museum exhibition Boston’s Apollo, this tale of individual courage and breathtaking vulnerability peels the varnish off venerable historical figures to reveal the beating heart and simmering desire beneath Sargent’s only uncommissioned monumental male nude. A short performance, discussion, and lecture with Gardner curator Dr. Nathaniel Silver is presented  in collaboration with the Des Moines Art Center and Pyramid Theatre.

Music by: Damien Geter
Libretto by: Lila Palmer
Sung in: English (with English subtitles)

Reservations are available at

Wednesday, July 20 at 7:30 pm
Thursday, July 21 at 2 pm
Saturday, July 23 at 2 pm

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856 – 1925)
Study of a Seated Male Nude for a Cartouche for the Rotunda of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1916-1921 (detail)
Charcoal on paper
63.3 x 48 cm (24 15/16 x 18 7/8 in.)
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (S.G.Sar.4.1.5)


Levitt Auditorium
4700 Grand Ave
Des Moines, IA 50312 United States