I DREAM Composer pays tribute to Dr. King’s dream

Composer Douglas Tappin shares his inspiration for the new opera I DREAM

Douglas Tappin


“As I imagined his life, I saw something clear. There was a plight—people in this country with a plight. It was something he saw and experienced in childhood as he grew up in the South.”

– Douglas Tappin


I wrote and composed the libretto and score of I DREAM while living in Atlanta, reading accounts of the Civil Rights Movement, and talking to many individuals who had been a part of it, including members of Dr. King’s family and some of his closest friends. The experience was so visceral and so profound that I felt, literally, compelled to tell the story—one of the greatest stories in human history and, more particularly, a great American story of recent history. In order to portray about 30 years of Dr. King’s life in a two-hour period, I needed all my resources as a musical-dramatic writer to set it as a Rhythm & Blues opera. I am using that term partly because that is what I set out to do, and also because I appreciate the need to label something, to define it, even though it is really just seamless storytelling using music and drama combined.

At the core of the story is a plight that is one of injustice—the plight of the poor, the needy, the orphaned, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the stranger, the captive, the hated one, the ones whom are persecuted. But in the face of that plight, and the most remarkable thing to me about the story, is the way people chose to confront it by using love, which is astonishing. And, not just a theoretical concept of love, but love that was walked out in a strong, practical way.

The focus for I DREAM is the thirty-six hours leading up to Dr. King’s assassination on April 4th 1968, and a series of dreams, reminiscence, and premonitions in respect to his life leading up to that point—right to the fateful moment on the balcony of Memphis’ Lorraine Motel. It is an exploration, a challenge and an articulation of the villain and the hero within the heart, humanity and façade of a man. I DREAM is a work that effectively bridges classical and popular traditions in its composition and orchestration.

In the Classical Tradition Orchestra of 70 musicians; the realism of Verismo with a primacy of dramatic purpose; on the scale of Grand Opera—a prioritization of immense production values and tremendous, moving music; a strong sense of local relevance, a vast cast, a significant movement and dance aspect, powerful confrontations, opulent duets, and weighty choruses; through-composed—each scene flowing evenly and naturally into the next, blending recitative, aria and arioso; establishing, developing and resolving themes and motifs; and appropriately featuring full vocal ranges.

In the Popular Tradition 21st Century artistic and theatrical sensibilities and consciousness as to duration; two acts lasting roughly two hours; written in English; subject matter: popular, relevant, accessible and universal; form: familiar song, melodic, and rhythmic structure; style: a fusion of contemporary, gospel, soul, spiritual, blues and jazz; rhythm and blues instrumentation—featuring piano, keyboard, Hammond B-3, lead and acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and drums; pace: relentlessly moving towards an escalated conclusion; selected moments of dialogue.

I set out to create something artistically excellent (musically, lyrically and as a matter of production) and entertaining—a powerful, moving, and inspiring operatic experience that is definitive, memorable, and enduring. Additionally, I wrote and composed I DREAM to honor the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movement he inspired, to unite diverse individuals and institutions in understanding the prophetic message of Dr. King, and to remember Dr. King’s dream in the midst of contemporary culture, in a way that moves those who experience I Dream to live that dream by loving as Dr. King did.


-Composer Douglas Tappin



 January 15  |  7:30 PM  |  Fountain Street Church


The story of a preacher from Atlanta.

Tickets and more.