Black Opera Stars: More Than Just the Sopranos

These divos and divas are at the top of their game. Take a look -- and then take a listen.

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  • Michèle Crider, Lyric Spinto Soprano

    Michèle Crider, Lyric Spinto Soprano

    Crider made her American debut with the San Diego Opera as the lead in Verdi’s Aida. Whether singing the title role in Tosca or Norma or Leonora in Il Trovatore, this soprano has made her mark at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City; La Scala in Milan, Italy; and other major opera houses around the world.

    Hear her here.

    Captions by Carolyn Sebron


  • Lawrence Brownlee, Tenor

    Lawrence Brownlee, Tenor

    Originally from Ohio, Brownlee takes the expression “bel canto” (beautiful singing) to the max. He’s performed at the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala, as well as opera houses in Berlin, Paris, Rome and London. His credits, too long to list here, include Daughter of the Regiment, The Barber of Seville and Armide, in which he starred alongside American soprano Renee Fleming.

    Hear him here.

  • Angela Brown, Soprano

    Angela Brown, Soprano

    Brown, an Indiana native, has performed at the Metropolitan Opera and South Africa’s Cape Town Opera, as well as in China. Her show, Opera … From a Sistah’s Point of View, is part of her mission to make opera accessible to all. The New York Times described her voice as possessing a “potent, dusky lower register [and] soft high notes of shimmering beauty.” Her roles include the Verdi heroines Aida and Il Trovatore‘s Leonora.

    Listen to this singer here.

  • Noah Stewart, Tenor

    Noah Stewart, Tenor

    A native New Yorker and a graduate of the Juilliard School, Stewart often travels from his digs in Harlem, performing leading roles throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has starred as Mario Cavaradossi in Tosca. He recently returned from almost two months in South Africa, where he performed the lead role of Don José in Bizet’s Carmen with a predominantly African cast. Stewart is now in London performing the role of Rodolfo in La Bohème.

    Hear him here.

  • Karen Slack, Lyric Spinto Soprano

    Karen Slack, Lyric Spinto Soprano

    If you’ve seen Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, you have already seen and heard this West Coast resident. She has performed as Violetta in La Traviata (Verdi’s adaptation of an Alexandre Dumas play) and, in Melbourne, Australia, as Desdemona in Otello. Look for a soon-to-be-released recording of Verdi’s Requiem, where she’ll be singing lead soprano.

    Listen to her here.

  • Kevin Thompson, Basso Profundo

    Kevin Thompson, Basso Profundo

    This D.C. native studied at Suitland High School’s Center for the Visual & Performing Arts, the Juilliard School and the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Program. By the ninth grade, he was already a bass. He has performed in Don Giovanni and Aida and has begun to establish himself on the international scene. He will appear on the recording of Verdi’s Requiem with Karen Slack.

  • Kendall Gladen, Mezzo-Soprano

    Kendall Gladen, Mezzo-Soprano

    A former Adler fellow with the San Francisco Opera, Gladen is beginning to establish herself on the opera and concert-hall stages. She has sung the title role in Carmen with the Florida Grand Opera and appeared at Carnegie Hall with the San Francisco Symphony, singing the alto solo for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. She has performed with the Washington National Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Sarasota Opera and Opera North.

    Hear her sing here.

  • Janinah Burnett, Soprano

    Janinah Burnett, Soprano

    Not many opera singers can sit cross-legged for 20 minutes, singing high notes from the floor as easily as flicking a feather off their shoulder. As Leila in the Pearl Fishers, a recent production in Syracuse, N.Y., Burnett did that and more. Her roles include Mimi in La Bohème, Bess in Porgy and Bess and the title role in the Paris production of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha

    Listen to her here.

  • Alfred Walker, Bass-Baritone

    Alfred Walker, Bass-Baritone

    This summer you can hear the New Orleans native at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home, Tanglewood, singing Porgy in Porgy and Bess. He is equally at home singing the demanding roles of Amonasro in Aida and Amfortas in Wagner’s opera Parsifal. He is a regular at Theater Basel in Switzerland.

    Hear this singer here.

  • Nicole Mitchell, Contralto

    Nicole Mitchell, Contralto

    The Brooklyn, N.Y., native is a 2011 Encouragement Award recipient and a 2010 Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation grant winner, as well as a Tanglewood fellow. She sang the role of Tituba in the Sarasota Opera’s production of The Crucible. In 2010 she made her debut at Avery Fisher Hall with the New York Philharmonic. In an upcoming performanc, she will sing the alto solo in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Alabama Symphony.

    Listen to her here.

  • Wendy Waller, Soprano

    Wendy Waller, Soprano

    The multitalented Waller recently produced the CD recording Gènie Oblige! Devoted to the music of Franz Liszt, the recording earned the only Diplôme d’Honneur awarded in 2009 during the 34th annual Franz Liszt International Grand Prix du Disque Competition.  She is the first African-American woman to receive such an honor. Known for her extraordinary performance as Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, Waller has added Bellini and Donizetti to her repertoire. 

    Hear her here.

  • Robert Mack, Tenor

    Robert Mack, Tenor

    This versatile singer created the role of Emmett Till in the opera of the same name by Charles Lloyd Jr. Currently on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera, he is also co-founder of Opera Noire of New York. Mack has appeared as Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess and has toured as one of the Three Mo’ Tenors, who are frequently heard in concert around the United States.

  • Tichina Vaughn, Mezzo-Soprano

    Tichina Vaughn, Mezzo-Soprano

    A University of North Carolina School of the Arts graduate and a product of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Vaughn holds the title of “Kammersängerin,” the highest honor the German government can confer on a singer. She has sung Amneris in Aida, Azucena in Il Trovatore and Venus in Tannhäuser — demanding star mezzo roles that require a strength of heart and voice.

    Hear this singer here.

  • Howard Haskin, Tenor

    Howard Haskin, Tenor

    Haskin, a Kansas native, has lived in France for more than 20 years. He has appeared in major opera houses and festivals throughout Europe, including in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria. He was a child prodigy, playing the piano at age 3. Today he speaks six languages, including Russian. This summer he re-creates one of his title roles, Otello, for the Dorset Opera Festival in the U.K. 

    Listen to him here.