International Tenor Lawrence Brownlee Featured Artist for Caterina Jarboro Memorial Recital

Thursday, March 09, 2023

International tenor Lawrence Brownlee will take center stage at this year’s Caterina Jarboro Memorial Recital, an annual event that honors Wilmington’s first operatic diva.

Jarboro was the first female singer to break the color barrier in American opera. She was the first Black woman to perform in a U.S. opera house in 1933 as part of the Chicago Opera Company at Manhattan’s Hippodrome.

Brownlee is set to perform on March 19 at 4 p.m. at Beckwith Hall in the Cultural Arts Building. Pianist Kevin Miller will accompany. Brownlee will premiere Rising, newly commissioned songs by composers Shawn Okpebholo, Damien Sneed, Joel Thompson and others, with texts drawn from James Weldon Johnson and other great Black writers of the Harlem Renaissance.

“To have an artist of this caliber on our campus is a dream come true,” said Dr. Nancy King, UNCW music department chair. “Lawrence Brownlee represents the very best of what we’re trying to achieve with the Caterina Jarboro Memorial Recital – connecting world-class operatic talent with our campus community and audiences across the southeastern Cape Fear region.”

A special pre-performance keynote will be given at 2:30 p.m. by distinguished guest scholar and poet Dr. Tsitsi Jaji, Bacca Foundation Associate Professor of English and African & African American Studies at Duke University. Professor Jaji’s current project, Classic Black, is a study of poetry set to music by Black concert music composers. This event is free and open to the public, and will be held in Room 1088 in the Cultural Arts Building.

Brownlee will also lead the Caterina Jarboro Memorial Master Class, featuring college-level undergraduate singers from UNCW, North Carolina Central University and East Carolina University on March 20 from noon until 1:30 p.m. The master class will take place in Beckwith Recital Hall and the public is invited to observe.

Tickets for Brownlee’s performance can be purchased at the UNCW Box Office in Kenan Auditorium, Monday through Friday, from noon until 4 p.m., or by calling 910.962.3500.

The recital is co-produced by the Opera Wilmington and sponsored by the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County. Opera Wilmington is the resident company of UNCW, providing scholarly opportunities for students and faculty in performance, design and music history and opera programs for residents throughout southeastern North Carolina.

--Venita Jenkins