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Opera singer Denyce Graves on diversity and highlighting hidden voices

Acclaimed opera singer Denyce Graves.
MC1 Chad J. McNeeley/United States Navy
Acclaimed opera singer Denyce Graves.

Acclaimed opera singer Denyce Graves makes her way back to Charlotte this week to tell the story of an influential yet often overlooked voice — that of Mary Cardwell Dawson.

Dawson, a North Carolina native who grew up in the Jim Crow era, created the National Negro Opera Company, the first Black opera company in the United States. Founded in 1941 in Pittsburgh, the opera company provided a safe creative space for Black artists.

Graves is on a mission to preserve Dawson’s legacy and introduce her story to new audiences. The opera star will perform the title role in “The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson” with Opera Carolina Feb. 15-17.

She joins Charlotte Talks to discuss the play, the importance of Dawson’s work, diversity in the opera and more.


Denyce Graves, acclaimed opera singer

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Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.