Bios for The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess in Concert

New Orleans Opera

For performances Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1, 2021

Kenneth Overton, Baritone – PORGY

2021 Grammy Award winning artist Kenneth Overton is lauded for blending his opulent baritone with magnetic, varied portrayals that seemingly “emanate from deep within body and soul.” Kenneth Overton’s symphonious baritone voice has sent him around the globe, making him one of the most sought-after opera singers of his generation. Upcoming engagements for Kenneth include his Metropolitan Opera debut as Lawyer Frazier in Porgy and Bess, a reprisal of the role of Ralph Abernathy in I Dream with Opera Carolina and Charlottesville Opera, Hailstork’s A Knee on the Neck with the National Philharmonic, and the debut of An African American Requiem with the Oregon Symphony. He will also appear in On Site Opera’s The Road We Came, an immersive and site-specific experience that explores the composers, musicians and places that define the rich Black history of New York City through a series of self-guided, musical walking tours. Last season, he made a triumphant role début of Friar Lawrence in Roméo et Juliette with Oregon Bach Festival, performing on the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death and conducted by the irreverent John Nelson, which critics deemed “too beautiful, too musical” not to be performed. Additionally, he returned to San Francisco Opera for Billy Budd and he appeared at Carnegie Hall for Angela Rice’s Thy Will be Done and Vaughan Williams’ Dona nobis pacem.

Kearstin Piper Brown, Soprano – BESS

In 2020, Kearstin Piper Brown previewed the lead role of Esther in Ricky Ian Gordon’s new opera Intimate Apparel at Lincoln Center Theater as part of the joint LCT and Metropolitan Opera’s New Works Program. The show will continue with its regular run in 2021-22.

She also appeared as Euridice in Opera Williamsburg’s video production of Orfeo ed Euridice, sang virtual concerts with the Gateways Music Festival and with Finger Lakes Opera, and filmed Anthony Knight’s No Cowards In Our Band with Syracuse Opera.

Pre-pandemic performances included her main stage debut with San Francisco Opera as Clara in Jake Heggie’s It’s A Wonderful Life, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with Opera Williamsburg, Sarah in Ragtime with Utah Festival Opera, Epiphany Proudfoot in the world premiere of Falling Angel by Mark Scearce with the Center for Contemporary Opera, High Priestess in Aida with the Atlanta Symphony, Violetta in La traviata with Lyric Opera Utah, Musetta in La bohème with Dayton Opera, Micaëla in Carmen with Arbor Opera Theater, Clara in Porgy and Bess at the Teatro di San Carlo in Napoli (Italy), Euridice with Opera Memphis, and Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Cincinnati Opera. Ms. Brown has performed her signature role Bess with numerous companies, most recently with Utah Festival Opera, Opera Kazan, Skylight Music Theatre, Dayton Opera, Virginia Opera, and the Belarusian Philharmonic Orchestra Minsk

Chauncey Packer, Tenor – SPORTIN’ LIFE

Chauncey Packer, an exciting American tenor who hails from southern Alabama, recently made his Metropolitan Opera debut in the roles of Sportin’ Life, Robbins, and Crab man in Porgy and Bess.  Additional recent highlights includeMozart’s Requiem with the Colour of Music Festival, concerts with the Saint-Georges International Music Festival and the Harrisburg Symphony, Sportin’ Life with New York Harlem’s Porgy and Bess at Teatro Regio in Torino, Italy, and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly at Soo Theatre Project in Michigan.  He has performed with Nashville Opera, Mobile Opera, Pensacola Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Pacific, and New Orleans Opera in roles such as Rodolfo in La bohème, Alfredo in La traviata, Pong in Turandot, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Sam in Susannah, Ruggero in La rondine, Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus, Tamino in The Magic Flute, Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor, and Amon in Akhnaten. He has been seen in concert with Baton Rouge Symphony, Nashville Symphony, Mobile Symphony, Grand Rapids Symphony, Pensacola Symphony, Arkansas Symphony, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Signature Symphony, and Torun Symphony Orchestra, and was featured in concert at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées with the Orchestre Symphonique de la Garde républicaine benefiting the organization Women of Africa.

Donovan Singletary, Bass-baritone – CROWN

During the past two seasons, Donovan Singletary sang Jake in Porgy and Bess in productions with the Metropolitan Opera, Dutch National Opera and English National Opera, in addition to singing Crown with Grange Opera in London and Atlanta Opera, and performances of Philip Glass’ Passages with the Pacific Symphony at Carnegie Hall, and the title role in Minnesota Opera’s Le Nozze di Figaro. 

Recent seasons are highlighted by his debut with Teatro alla Scala as Jake in Porgy and Bess under the baton of Alan Gilbert and the Metropolitan Opera in productions of Julius Cesare, Un ballo in maschera, Macbeth, Salome, Don Carlo, Pelléas et Mélisande, Tosca, La bohème, The Enchanted Island, The Tales of Hoffmann and The Bartered Bride, as well as performances with Seattle Opera of Zuniga in Carmen, Monterone in Rigoletto, and Jake in Porgy and Bess, where he provided “a beautiful and powerful bass-baritone.” (The Sun Break). He is a Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finals Winner, where he was the youngest male competitor to ever win the competition. He also won the Met’s Joseph Volpe Award.   Mr. Donovan is also a graduate of the prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at The Metropolitan Opera and Juilliard School.

Angela Brown, Soprano – SERENA

A featured artist on the two-time Grammy Award® winning recording “Ask Your Mama,” Angela’s international reputation continues to grow. Her highly successful Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of Aida captured instant attention from international print and broadcast media and catapulted Angela onto the world’s prestigious opera and symphonic stages. Headlines from The New York Times read “At last an Aida,” and CBS Weekend News proclaimed: “the future of opera has arrived!” These accolades were quickly followed by features on the front page of The New York Times, on CNN, in Oprah Magazine, Essence Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Classical Singer, Reader’s Digest, and Psychology Today.

While opera is the main catalyst for her career, Angela’s performance experience includes everything from star emcee to producer, recording artist, podcast host, and program creator. Her most fervent endeavor is the founding and advancement of Morning Brown, Inc., a nonprofit with the mission of bridging the gap between accessible, live-music programs and underserved individuals, schools, and communities. Drawing on the success of her groundbreaking show, Opera…from a Sistah’s Point of View©1997, Morning Brown works to bring cultural experiences and awareness to cultural deserts. In 2020, she launched a new podcast with Classical Music Indy and co-host Joshua Thompson titled “Melanated Moments in Classical Music.” The first season landed in the top 10% of all podcasts for listeners and won “Best Black Music Podcast” of 2020. Season two premiered in March 2021.

Reginald Smith, Jr., Baritone – JAKE

Reginald Smith, Jr.’s 2020-2021 season included returns to the Atlanta Opera as Tonio in I Pagliacci (a role debut) and to the Dallas Symphony in a concert honoring the victims of racial violence and injustice. Future engagements include debuts with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Santa Fe Opera in leading roles.

Last season Mr. Smith made his much-anticipated debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Jim in Porgy and Bess, followed by Amonasro in Aida with the Houston Grand Opera and Jake in Porgy and Bess with the Atlanta Opera. His orchestral appearances included Christmas Pops Concerts with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Prior to that, Mr. Smith, appeared as Jake in Porgy and Bess with Cincinnati Opera, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Opera Memphis, Amonasro in Aida with Opera Idaho, and returned to the rosters of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera. His orchestral engagements included the baritone solo in Carmina Burana for his return to the Houston Symphony and the bass solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at New Jersey Symphony, West Virginia Symphony and Symphoria.

Imani Sarai Francis, Soprano – CLARA

Imani Sarai Francis is a native of New Orleans and graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) in 2016. She is very active in the community, serving as a youth counselor, assistant voice coach, and African American history teacher for Tambourine and Fan, a youth organization founded by Freedom Rider, Jerome Smith.

Imani graduated in 2020 from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music, receiving her Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance. She has already received dozens of awards and recognition to her credit; among them, the Classical Singer Vocal Competition, Semifinalist; Red River Young Artist Competition, First Place; New Orleans Opera Youth Vocal Competition, Second Place; National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition, 2014, First Place; Canto Lirico International Competition Recitalist, Trujillo, Peru, 2017; National Association of Negro Musicians, vocalist and Masterclass participant with Robert Sims and George Shirley; National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition, 2020, First Place Graduate Women’s Edition; Guest Vocalist, B-Sharp Concert Series, 2017; First Place winner in both Graduate Women and Hall Johnson Negro Spiritual divisions of the NATS Southern Region competitions.

Danielle Edinburgh Wilson, Contralto – MARIA

Danielle Edinburgh Wilson is a native of New Orleans. She received her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of New Orleans in 2013 and her Bachelor of Music degree from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2010. At the age of 2, she sang her first solo for her great-grandmother’s church program and she has been singing ever since. She has been blessed to sing around the world, performing in Spain, France, Belize, Italy and Switzerland as well as locally for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Essence Festival and performances on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. She starred as the legendary Mahalia Jackson in multiple productions of Mahalia! A Gospel Musical and released her album “Reflections of Mahalia” to pay tribute to Mahalia Jackson and her gospel legacy.

Gary Lee Randall – ACTOR

Gary Randall made his operatic debut with the New Orleans Opera Association in 1999.  He sang as a chorister and performed the comprimario role of Albert in Douglas Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe.  Gary took a detour from the opera stage from 1999-2020.  Over that 21-year period, Gary taught high-school choir and guitar, directed music for his local church, formed and co-led two R&B/Funk bands named Chronic Soul and Delirium Residue.  Chronic Soul received national attention when it appeared on the CBS Early Show’s Living Room Live…Battle of the Bands competition.  Gary Randall worked as an instructor in voice, piano and guitar at the Louisiana Academy of Performing Arts from 2017-2019.  After auditioning for the late, great jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, he sang with a local jazz combo called the New Orleans Street Beats.  In February 2020, Gary, returned, to the opera stage, as a chorister in the New Orleans Opera production of Tchaikovsky’s Joan of Arc.  Mr. Randall now works full-time as the owner, artist, producer and engineer of KDOM RECORDS LLC based in New Orleans.