In a situation that proves Lizzo makes literally everything cool, the recent Emmy-winning musician played a crystal flute that once belonged to former United States President James Madison. Clad in a glittery leotard, Lizzo had an air of excited reverence as she took up the fragile instrument onstage during a concert in Washington, DC, on September 26. She played an exploratory note to cheers from the crowd before executing a longer trill with accompanying twerking.
“I am the first person to ever play it,” said Lizzo to a packed crowd at Capital One Arena, noting that the crystal flute was one of very few objects salvaged by First Lady Dolley Madison during the War of 1812 (the most iconic rescued object is this portrait of George Washington). “Y’all about to hear what it sounds like for the first time.” On social media, some fans saw symbolic meaning in Lizzo playing the instrument of a president who was an enslaver, calling the performance “a flawless fuck-you.”
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The performance, which was attended by Secret Service agents and LOC representatives to secure the precious object, followed a more buttoned-down performance by Lizzo in the Reading Room and flute vault at the Library of Congress’s Great Hall.
The instrument is part of a collection held by the Library of Congress and was made for James Madison in 1813, on the occasion of his second inauguration, by Claude Laurent of Paris. Laurent’s flutes are rare treasures, with only 185 examples known in the world, but the one made for Madison is especially unique, one of only two that are confirmed to be made of crystal rather than potash glass.
The idea to engage the international superstar in an impromptu duet with history seems to be the brainchild of Carla Hayden, 14th Librarian of Congress, who tweeted about the flute collection and invited Lizzo to come check it out. Who knows if she expected quite the enthusiastic response?
Hopefully Hayden is enjoying congratulations today, along with everyone who ensured the safety of the historic object even as it was given a new life in performance. Clearly, Lizzo was thrilled, the Library of Congress was thrilled, and of course, the Internet — and Lizzo fans all around — are over the moon.