Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Story of Barbara Smith Conrad

(Photo: Robert Caplin/NYTimes)
When I Rise is a PBS documentary that explores an explosive civil rights story set in Austin, Texas, about an African-American mezzo-soprano performing a University production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in 1957. Segregationists threatened revoking financing to the school and Harry Belafonte stepped in to offer the young girl a free education at any place of her choosing outside of the state. She refused. Not gaining the stature of Marian Anderson, Kathleen Battle or Leontyne Price, Ms. Conrad made her Metropolitan Opera house debut in 1982 singing the role of Annina in Der Rosenkavalier. In the decade that followed she performed the roles of Preziosilla (La Forza del Destino), Squirrel (L'enfant et les Sortilèges), Hecuba (Les Troyens), Maddalena (Rigoletto) and Maria (Porgy and Bess). Her final performance came when she stepped in for an ailing Dolora Zajick as Amneris for the final two acts of Verdi's Aida on October 2, 1989. Check local listings for the special. [Source]

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