Few college students have time to attend the opera, let alone meet one of the Metropolitan Opera’s most talented and inspiring divas, but 46 Baruch College students in the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY were lucky enough to do both in one week. Met opera diva Angela M. Brown came to Baruch on October 30 to describe her remarkable career path, from a gospel singer in her grandfather’s Baptist church in Indianapolis to her recent starring role in Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida at the Met.
Brown spent an hour and a half with students in two sections of The Arts in New York City, a first semester seminar required of CUNY Honors College freshmen, taught by Roslyn Bernstein and Bridgett Davis, professors in the undergraduate program in journalism. The visit was an exciting prelude to seeing Brown perform on November 5.
“I had a blast talking to the students at Baruch! I was greeted with welcoming arms and found the students and teachers to be very interested in the path that my life and career as an opera singer has taken,” Brown said of the visit. “When the curtain fell on the November 5 performance at the Met, I really appreciated the extra love I felt from the the audience that contained the Baruch students and faculty. The reception was so warm that it brought me to tears right there on stage!”
“Angela Brown was so gracious,” said Professor Bernstein, who as director of Baruch’s Harman Writer-in-Residence Program is no stranger to cultural figures. “I sent her an email explaining that I was taking my class to see her in Aida at the Met, and that for these students this was going to be their first opera experience. To our surprise and delight, Ms. Brown said that she would be happy to come. She was wonderful: engaging, warm, and very open to all sorts of questions from curious students. They loved her.”
“Awesome,” was how one student described meeting the diva, as he reached into his wallet and asked Brown to autograph his opera ticket.
The students were particularly touched by her lively description of how she found her calling.
Her journey to reach the footlights at Lincoln Center is more amazing considering her modest beginnings: she began her vocal training not at Juilliard but at Oakwood College, a predominantly black religious college in Huntsville, Alabama, where she studied music and Bible instruction, hoping to become a singing evangelist.
Brown’s 2004 debut as Aida at the Met was as an understudy. The performance was lauded by opera critics nationwide; a CBS News segment dubbed her ”the future of opera.” Her career path has taken her from secretarial stints, to hospital aide, to jazz and R&B singer. Her fourth attempt at the Met’s regional National Council auditions proved to be the charm, and she has since brought her signature style to classical operatic roles before countless international audiences. Brown is currently preparing for an all-star produciton of Aida with the opera company in Bilbao, Spain. She returns to the Met in April to sing Amelia in three performances of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera.
“I want to thank the Baruch faculty and students for the support they showed me in that audience,” Brown added. “They are the future of opera!”
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