Named in honor of the revolutionary African-American contralto, the Marian Anderson Vocal Award recognizes a young American singer in an opera, oratorio or recital repertoire with outstanding promise for a meaningful career. Earlier this year, the Washington National Opera (WNO) named tenor Frederick Ballentine as the 2021 recipient and will present him in concert on Tuesday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.
Originally from Virginia, Ballentine is a 2018 alumnus of WNO’s Cafritz Young Artist program and has since quickly established himself as one of the most sought-after artists today, making his Metropolitan Opera debut as Sportin ‘Life. in the 2019-2020 production of Gershwin. Porgy and Bess. Ballentine organized the program to reflect “the journey of Blacks and LGBTs in America. Our separation from it all. Our constant oppression. Our lost loves and souls. But most beautifully, our resilience.” Ballentine organized her recital in several “movements”. The first one, “Shut Me Out”, begins with the spiritual dark. Sometimes I feel like a child without a mother. These movement titles capture the emotional range of the program, with sections titled “Goin ‘Up In Smoke”, “Requiem” and “So Loud, So Proud”. The repertoire doubly reflects this range, given both Franz Schubert and Nina Simone were selected for this program. Ballentine will be accompanied by pianist Kunal Lahiry.
In addition to the recital presented by WNO, Ballentine received a cash prize of $ 10,000 and will lead a master class with students from the vocal music program at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Washington DC High School of Visual and Performing Arts. Ballentine was selected by a distinguished jury comprising Laurent Brownlee (Marian Anderson Award recipient and Distinguished Visiting Professor, The Juilliard School), Roderick Cox (conductor), Samuel Gelber (director of artistic planning, WNO), Denyce Graves (Recipient of the Marian Anderson Award, Distinguished Visiting Faculty, The Juilliard School, and Rosa Ponselle Distinguished Faculty Artist / Voice, The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University), David Lomelí (Chief Artist Officer, Santa Fe Opera), Christina Scheppelmann (General Director , Seattle Opera), Karen slack (Artistic Advisor, Portland Opera), Melissa Wegner (Executive Director, Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and Laffont Competition, Metropolitan Opera) and Francesca Zambello (Artistic Director, WNO and Artistic Director and General, The Glimmerglass Festival).
In order to honor Ms. Anderson’s personal and humanitarian achievements, the award encourages service and education, enabling exemplary artists to connect with the community. Aligning with Ballentine’s skills and interest, its educational program at Duke Ellington The school aims to have a positive impact on vocal music students. The school offers a preparatory and comprehensive curriculum in pre-university arts, which includes a major in vocal music. With over 50 singing students from the school invited to attend the master class, selected students will have the opportunity to perform and receive comments and advice from the artist.
Previous award recipients include the 2020 winner Does Liverman, Solomon Howard, Ryan Speedo Green, John Holliday, Janai Brugger, Jamie Barton, J’nai Bridges, Sasha cooke, Indira Mahajan, Laurent Brownlee, Eric Owens, Marguerite Krull, Nathan Gunn, Michelle DeYoung, Patricia racette, Nancy Maultsby, Philip Zawisza, Denyce Graves, and Sylvie mcnair.
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A native of Norfolk, Va., Grammy Award-winning tenor Frederick Ballentine is the 2021 recipient of the Kennedy Center Marian Anderson Award and an alumnus of the Cafritz Young Artists program at the Washington National Opera and the Los Angeles Opera HouseDomingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artists Program. During the 2021-2022 season he joined the Staatstheater Kassel, where he made his debut as a drum major in Wozzeck. In addition, he returned to the Metropolitan Opera to reprise the role of Sportin ‘Life in Porgy and Bess, debuted the role of Nick in The Handmaid’s Tale at the English National Opera, and joined the Cincinnati Opera for the rescheduled premiere of Castor and Patience.
Mr. Ballentine’s planned engagements for the 2020-2021 season included his first performances of Rodolfo in La bohème with Opera Memphis (postponed) and Florentine Opera (postponed), Dr. Richardson in Breaking the Waves with Los Angeles Opera House (canceled) and Miles Zegner in Proving Up with Lyric Opera from Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited series (postponed). Originally intended to sing Don José in Houston Grand OperaWith the canceled production of Carmen, he instead sang Herr Vogelsang in a digital production of Mozart’s The Impresario. He continues his work with Houston Grand Opera in recital with Laurent Brownlee for their Giving Voice series, celebrating precious black performers, and appeared in a filmed recital at the Seattle Opera’s Tagney Jones Hall. Over the summer, Ballentine was scheduled to sing Judah at the world premiere of Castor and Patience with the Cincinnati Opera (postponed).
Mr. Ballentine’s initial engagements for the shortened 2019-2020 season of COVID-19 featured his debut with the Metropolitan Opera as Sportin ‘Life in Porgy and Bess (performed), and returned to the Seattle Opera as than Charlie parker in Charlie parker‘s Yardbird (performed) and Los Angeles Opera House as Monastatos in Die Zauberflöte (performed). He also planned to return to the Washington State Opera as Sportin ‘Life in Porgy and Bess (canceled), at the Cincinnati Opera to create the role of Judah in the world premiere of Gregory Spears’ Castor and Patience. (postponed), and his debut in the title role of Hoffmann’s Tales with Opera Louisiane (postponed). In concert he made his debut with the New Jersey Symphony for Handel’s Messiah (performed).
He trained at the Aspen Music Opera Center and the Opera Theater of St. Louis, which awarded him the Thelma Steward Endowed Artist Alumni Award.
Mr. Ballentine played with the Los Angeles Opera House on several occasions as a former young artist Domingo-Colburn-Stein. His most notable performances have been in Barrie Kosky’s hugely popular production of Die Zauberflöte. He is featured on the CD recently produced by the Société des Fantômes de Versailles, and returned to the company as Amon in Philippe Glassit is Akhenaton.
In concert, Mr. Ballentine has performed as a featured soloist with the New York Choral Society for their Christmas concert, with the Naples Philharmonic and the Colburn School for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. and Arvo Pärt’s Miserere, and the Venezuelan Simon Bolivar Orchestra as Pang in Turandot.
The American contralto Marian Anderson was one of the most famous singers of the 20th century. She became an important figure in the struggle of African-American artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States when, in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused her permission to perform in front of an integrated audience at Constitution Hall. The incident propelled Anderson into the international spotlight to a level unusual for a classical musician. With the help of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed outdoor concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC in front of a crowd of over 75,000 and a radio audience of millions.
She continued to break down barriers, becoming the first African-American artist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on January 7, 1955. Her portrayal of Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi‘s Un ballo in maschera was the only time she sang an opera role on stage. She then worked for several years as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and for the United States Department of State, giving concerts around the world. She participated in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, singing at the March on Washington in 1963. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the National Medal of Arts in 1986 and a Grammy Lifetime Award of Excellence in 1991.
The impetus for the Marian Anderson Vocal Award was given by June Goodman of Danbury, Connecticut, a friend of Anderson’s who wanted to recognize the outstanding qualities of the revolutionary African-American singer. The Marian Anderson Award Foundation then established the award at the Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. In September 2002, the Kennedy Center and the Fairfield County’s Community Foundation collaborated to create a permanent tribute to Anderson’s historic artistic achievements by presenting a $ 10,000 cash prize and a Kennedy Center recital for an outstanding singer.