Music Department at the University of Texas Stages Duke Ellington’s Unfinished Comic Opera

In the early 1970s the Public Broadcasting Corporation reached an agreement with Duke Ellington to produce a one-hour musical special for television. Ellington began work on Queenie Pie, a comic opera with a jazz theme about a fictional beauty contest for hairdressers in Harlem. Ellington only finished about 75 percent of the music for the piece before his death in 1974.

The music that Ellington wrote for Queenie Pie has been performed in concert many times. But now three music professors at the University of Texas, in collaboration with 89-year-old Betty McGettigan who worked with Ellington on writing the lyrics for the original music, have completed the opera. It was performed recently at the university with students from the University of Texas and Huston-Tillotson University, the historically black college in Austin.

The three music professors attempted to produce a final version of the opera in the style they believe Ellington would have used.

A recording of the live production is scheduled for release on CD.