Above: Cécile McLorin Salvant. Photo by Mark Fitton.
On a cool evening in late September, Cécile McLorin Salvant wafted onto the stage of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium as if in a trance. Dressed in a billowy white gown that she had designed herself, she stood wordlessly for an uncomfortable moment, gazing out at the audience with inscrutable eyes, and began to sing. “There’s a woman lived in the woods on the outskirts of town,” she intoned, in a line reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s timeless folk song “Ballad of Hollis Brown.” “Her skin was chocolate brown,” Salvant went on, as though she were summoning a ghost. “Upon her head she wore a crown of bones, human bones.”