So I’ve been neglecting Black History Month all month, mostly due to a busy time in school. Now that it’s almost over though, let’s try to knock a couple out at least!
William Grant Still (1895-1978) was an African-American composer with a whole slew of firsts for black composers; for our interests, he was the first to have an opera performed by a major American company (that was NYCO, back in 1949) and the first to have one of his operas televised (albeit posthumously).
I was sniffing around for his work online and sadly there isn’t much to be found, but there is a full recording of his last opera, Highway 1, from 1962 available on Spotify… Apparently this is his only opera that’s been recorded.
Baritone Dorian Hall performs an aria from it above. For more information on Still, here is a great source for sheet music of much of his work and the most extensive bio I found, on AfriClassical. One site says that his work is undergoing a revival, so let’s hope that extends to his operas soon!