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Denyce Graves On Rediscovering The Hidden Greats of Black Opera

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Famed mezzo soprano Denyce Graves is working to restore the artistic legacy of the forgotten greats of Black opera. (photo by Devon Cass)

We open this segment with a recording of internationally acclaimed opera star Denyce Graves, singing "American Anthem" in the Rotunda of the US Capitol at the memorial service for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in September of last year.

Justice Ginsberg was a big fan of opera, and a big fan of Denyce Graves, and in that regard the Justice is most certainly not alone. Denyce Graves has sung in the major opera houses and with the major symphony orchestras of the world.

And as she continues to perform and teach, she has recently undertaken a project to restore the original home of the National Negro Opera Company, located in Pittsburgh, and to rescue from historical neglect the many influential African Americans who distinguished themselves in the world of opera, during a time when non-white artists were barred from most of America's major performance venues.

This week, Ms. Graves is at the Glimmerglass Festival, a longtime summer destination for opera lovers in upstate New York, appearing in a play with music about the founder of the National Negro Opera Company, Mary Cardwell-Dawson.

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Mary Cardwell-Dawson (1894-1962) was an opera director and educator who founded the National Negro Opera Company in Pittsburgh in 1941. (Library Of Congress)

Denyce Graves joins us on Zoom from Cooperstown, NY.

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