How has your Black identity influenced your career?
My blackness has been influential on my career. I don’t have the luxury of assuming that every opera house will want the leading female roles to be played by Black women. Personally (and I know I’m not the only Black woman who is forced to do this) once I know the information about the opera house, what opera they’re doing, and have read the guidelines for the role, I then have to think: would they actually be willing to let a Black woman play this role?” Unfortunately opera hasn’t always been welcoming or accommodating to Black singers. Theater is the same way. including musical theatre. Things have definitely gotten a lot better since the early years, but unfortunately, racial typecasting in the arts is a very real issue.
I will say that my blackness has had a positive influence on my career when it comes to our black youth. There are so many that don’t know the many famous Black faces in opera (Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Martina Arroyo, Simon Estes, Lawrence Brownlee etc.) just yet. I know from personal experience that when they see Black people performing in opera locally, it makes all the difference. They realize that they can be in opera too, and even make a career out of it. Representation really does matter.
What is your favorite role that you have sung?
I wouldn’t say I have a favorite role, because I have enjoyed each role that I have played. It was refreshing to play the comedic role of Zita in Gianni Schicchi. Zita is the cousin to the rich and deceased Buoso Donati. She schemes with her greedy family to ensure they would be the only ones to inherit Buoso’s fortune. I have sung a lot of roles in very dramatic operas before, so it was nice to let loose, laugh a bit and bring this funny character to life.