Black History Month 2017 Part 2 – Exploring More Black Singers Making Opera Waves Right Now

By David Salazar

In our first article on black history month we took a look at the opera stars making their mark in the biggest of ways, the singing actors taking headlines at the biggest houses in the world.

As we continue to celebrate black history month OperaWire will recognize other black singers making waves in the opera world, many of them rising stars and others established ones. Enjoy!

Latonia Moore

The soprano came to prominence on a Saturday afternoon in 2012 when she stepped in for an ailing Violetta Urmana at the Metropolitan Opera in a broadcast performance of Verdi’s “Aida.” It is safe to say that she has never looked back becoming one of the greatest living exponents of the role. Since that day, she has sung Aida in 12 different productions, with more on the way. The singer has also made a name for herself singing Cio-Cio San in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly at the San Diego Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and the Staatsoper Hamburg.

Nicole Cabell

Cabell is off African American, Korean and Caucasian ancestry, her father the first African America Chief in the Sheriff’s Department in Los Angeles. A winner of the 2005 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, the soprano has sustained a solid career at some of the top cities in the world including Santa Fe, Berlin, San Francisco, Barcelona, Washington, Minneapolis and the New York. She made her Met debut in 2008 in “The Magic Flute.” 

John Holiday

John Holiday’s star is in ascendance, especially after winning this year’s Marian Anderson Award. Holiday is slated for a high profile recital next February 2018 and has made a name for himself in numerous baroque operas including “Xerxes,” “Giulio Cesare” and “Dido and Aeneas.”

Othalie Graham

The Canadian-American soprano is one of the few in history that can claim to sing the treacherous role of “Turandot” year after year without the least sign of vocal discomfort. Taking on the title role of Puccini’s last opera for the first time in 2006, she has since owned it for the last decade, performing it in 11 separate runs. She has also been repeatedly engaged in the title role of “Aida” while also showcasing her talents in other Puccini and Wagner roles along the way. She has also performed Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” rather extensively in recent years.

Angela Brown

The Indiana native is a Verdi specialist, making her Met debut as “Aida,” while also singing such roles as Amelia in “Un Ballo in Maschera,” Leonora in “Il Trovatore,” Leonora in “La Forza del Destino” and the Verdi Requiem among other works. She has also made a number of recordings.

Musa Ngqungwana

The South African singer recently released a book relating his experience as an opera singer but has also made a number of high profile debuts over the last year including the Glimmerglass Festival. The bass is making his Canadian debut as Angelotti in “Tosca” this May and is the winner of the 2014 Cesare Santeremo / Dr. Campbell Award from Opera Index in New York.  He was also the 2013 Grand Finals Winner of the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Laquita Mitchell

The soprano has had a solid career around both North America and Europe making appearances with the LA Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and New York City Opera among others. Upcoming performances include a concert with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in which she will pay tribute to Jessye Norman as well as concert performances of “Porgy and Bess” in Baltimore. She has a famed home video release of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” alongside Eric Owens from the San Francisco Opera.

J’Nai Bridges

Bridges is in in the midst of making major house debuts around the world at Los Angeles, San Francisco, Munich and Vancouver. Her schedule will also include stops at Indiana, Washington and Paris. In essence, Bridges has hit the point in operatic stardom where she is wanted everywhere.

Alyson Cambridge

Cambridge has been tackling the role of Mimì around the States, singing it in Washington, San Diego and Milwaukee among other places. She has also made a name for herself in the role of Julie in “Show Boat,” singing it at The Dallas Opera, Kentucky Opera and Washington National Opera.

Krysty Swann

The mezzo-soprano is coming off a tremendous 2016, performing Mozart and Verdi’s Requiems at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. She is slated for an event busier slate in 2017 with performances of Verdi’s Requiem, Mahler’s Third Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and “Aida” and Handel Messiah throughout the first calendar year.

Deborah Nansteel

The recent graduate of the Washington National Opera Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, the Mezzo-soprano has made a name for herself singing roles in North Carolina, Washington, Arizona, Glimmerglass, Seattle and the Lyric Opera of Chicago among others. She has big dates coming up in Michigan and the Main Mozart Festival this summer.

Lauren Michelle

One of the few opera singers who can claim to be featured on a major television series, Michelle got a shot to do just that on “Empire” in late 2016. The LA native finished third in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in 2015 and has made a name for herself in the role of Jessica in “Der Kaufmann von Venedig,” which she will sing at the Royal Opera in July.

Lester Lynch 

The dramatic baritone has established himself in Verdi roles such as Amonasro in “Aida,” “Rigoletto” and the Conte di Luna in “Il Trovatore” among others. He is also championed Gerswin’s “Porgy and Bess” and is included in a home video release from San Francisco which includes Laquita Michell and Eric Owens. He is set to take on “Doktor Faust” and “The Great Gatsby” in Dresden later this year with a run of “Der Kaufmann von Venedig” set for July in London.

Pumeza Matshikiza

The South African soprano is an exclusive Decca Classics artist, releasing two albums with the company including “Voice of Hope” in 2014 and “Arias” in May 2016. The soprano is set for performances in her native South African in March followed by concerts in Budapest and Italy. She will also perform alongside renowned tenor Rolando Villazón in Salem, Germany this summer.

Check out our other articles that celebrate Black History Month 2017:



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