Under the Dome

Transgender-themed opera coming to Legislative Building

House Bill 2 has inspired a pair of North Carolina School of the Arts graduates to bring their opera about a transgender man from Afghanistan trying to find his way in Chapel Hill to the Legislative Building next month.

Legislators, the governor, and the general public will be invited to the May 19 performance of The Body Politic in the Legislative Building auditorium.

Charles Osborne, the librettist, a Charlotte native, a 2012 graduate of the School of the Arts, said he hopes the performance will help “break down barriers between people who may on the surface be different from one another.”

People can use the Legislative Building auditorium if their purpose is to participate in the legislative process, according to the Legislative Services Office.

The Body Politic is about Iphis, a transgender Afghan man who has immigrated to Chapel Hill. Iphis was a bacha posh, a girl who was raised in Afghanistan disguised as a boy. It’s a cultural practice in some parts of Afghanistan to raise girls as boys until they reach puberty because of the pressure for families to have sons, Osborne explained.

Composer Leo Hurley, a School of the Arts alum, worked on the opera for about 10 years, Osborne said.

Iphis continues living as a man and experiences transgender and Muslim discrimination in the United States.

The Juventas New Music Ensemble is directing and conducting the opera, which premieres in Boston on May 5.

Osborne and Hurley have set up a GoFundMe page to raise $3,000 to bring the opera to North Carolina, and are a little over half way to the goal.

Osborne said they hope the work starts a dialogue.

“No one is a villain,” he said. “No one is treated in the wrong light. That’s something that is missing right now.”