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Black Opera Research Network Inaugural Event: Black Experiences in Opera


The Black Opera Research Network (BORN) has been recently launched. BORN is an international research collaboration committed to exploring operatic activities, both historical and current, that complicate the perceived whiteness of opera as genre. For more information, visit the website at http://blackoperaresearch.net/.

To celebrate the launch of our network, the BORN team invites you to the inaugural event, an online panel discussion on the topic of Black experiences in opera: perspectives from South Africa, Europe, and the US. 

  • Time: Friday 21 August 2020, 11am EDT / 4pm BST / 5pm CEST.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Moderator: Prof Naomi André, University of Michigan
  • Panelists: Louise Toppin (USA), Patrick Dailey (USA), Njabulo Madlala (South Africa), July Zuma (South Africa)

Please register for the event here. Upon registration you will receive the Zoom link and password for this panel.

The conversation will run for an hour, followed by twenty minutes for audience exchange. Talking points may include, but won’t be limited to:

  • @operaisracist Instagram account, and similar recent interventions
  • intersections between race and gender hierarchies in operatic activity
  • the hidden labour of black opera scenographers, choreographers, librettists, and other largely unacknowledged creative agents
  • routes to participation and empowerment in South Africa and the USA

Brief bios of the panelists appear at the end of this message. To get involved with BORN, please email blackoperaresearchnetwork@gmail.com

The BORN teams looks forward to welcoming you to our first discussion!

The BORN team:

Prof Naomi André (University of Michigan)

Dr Innocentia Mhlambi (Wits University)

Dr Juliana M. Pistorius (University of Huddersfield)

Dr Hilde Roos (Stellenbosch University)

Allison R. Smith (Boston University)

Dr Donato Somma (Wits University)

Dr Kristen Turner (North Carolina State University)

Dr Lena van der Hoven (University of Bayreuth)


Louise Toppin is Professor of Music (Voice) at the University of Michigan. She is a noted performer, scholar and professor who specializes in the concert repertoire of African American composers. As the administrator of the George Shirley Vocal Competition and Videus (a non-profit organization that promotes the concert repertoire of African American and women composers), she encourages the performance and scholarship of African American compositions by students and scholars.

Patrick Dailey, countertenor, has earned awards and honors from the NAACP ACT-SO, Harlem Opera Theater Vocal Competition, and the National Classical Singer Magazine University Vocal Competition. He is an alumnus of Opera Saratoga’s Young Artist program and Opera New Jersey’s Emerging Artist Program. He performs widely across the USA and the UK, and conducts research on the construction of the black voice. Dailey is Adjunct Professor of Voice at Tennessee State University.

Njabulo Madlala was born in Durban, South Africa and trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Cardiff International Academy of Voice. He has been a Britten-Pears Young Artist, a Samling Artist and a young artist at the Ravinia International Festival. In 2010 he won the Kathleen Ferrier Award. As a baritone, he regularly performs with English National Opera, Royal Opera House, London Philharmonic Orchestra and further afield. He is a founding director of the Voices of South Africa International Opera Singing Competition.

July Zuma is a freelance lyric tenor from Durban, South Africa who has resided in Berlin since 2012.  He has performed in numerous international operatic stages and festivals. He graduated from the University of Cape Town Opera School under Prof. Angelo Gobbato and continued his Honors Studies at the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu in Barcelona with Prof. Eduardo Griminéz. He was Cape Town Opera's Company Manager from 2005 to 2009 and was the Production Manager for Umculo Festival's productions under Shirley Apthorp. July is also one of the Directors for Umthombo Arts Development based in the Eastern Cape and a Director in his own organization, Kwa-Mashu Community Empowerment Organization, based in Kwa-Mashu Township.

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