In 2021, Rhea Dillon presented a performance of Catgut - The Opera as part of the Serpentine Gallery’s Park Nights series. Dillon’s libretto ruminates on the conditions and capaciousness of Black performance as experienced through the Black operatic. Taking its departure from The Masque of Blackness by Ben Jonson, a masque commissioned in the early 17th century by Queen Anne of Denmark, the queen consort of King James I, Catgut convened three orators in classic soapboxing fashion. Throughout the opera’s three acts — the essay, the poem, and the poethic — Dillon denounces the idea that the Black performing artist should or could ever exist in the mundane.
Jessica Lynne has written an emotional response in essay form, while Simone White has offered a poem to accompany the libretto. The book includes photographic documentation, and concludes with an extensive conversation between Dillon and Elaine Mitchener discussing the trials of performance as an artistic practice.