Black superstars of the opera world (part 1)

Hi! Guest mod Shira here. Since opera is the closest thing I have to a fandom these days, I wanted to make some posts spotlighting some of my favorite Black opera singers. It is my hope that reading about these exceptionally talented artists and watching these short video clips will help expand white people’s idea of what kinds of professions and interests you can give your Black characters.

Post #1 will focus on Sir Willard White and Jessye Norman, and I hope to do at least one more post in the future.


Sir Willard White was born in Jamaica and now lives in Britain. He’s a bass-baritone, which means his voice is deep and low. He’s played traditionally Black roles like Porgy from Porgy and Bess but also plenty of other important characters, like the Norse god Odin, the evil sorcerer Klingsor, the Little Mermaid’s father in the Czech opera Rusalka, and King Mark of Cornwall. 


He brings intense drama to his roles, in addition to his outstanding voice.

Here he is playing Odin (or “Wotan”, since the opera’s in German) at the end of Die Walküre, bidding farewell to his favorite daughter since as punishment she is about to be made mortal and sent into an enchanted sleep, protected by Loki’s fire and woken to the kiss of whatever man is brave enough to cross it. (Please excuse the “glass eye” instead of Odin’s eyepatch. I prefer a more traditional costuming but sometimes people get creative.)

And now, switching gears, the magnificent Jessye Norman!


She’s a soprano, which means her voice is in the higher range, and she’s been one of my favorite singers since I was a little girl. She’s from Augusta, Georgia and is close to her roots – recently, she helped create a free afterschool performing arts program for poor kids back home.

The role of hers I keep going back to and watching is Sieglinde, one of the tragic twins from Die Walküre (see video above for some incredible love duets), but she’s played dozens of heavy, dramatic roles up and down the opera charts including the Greek mythological figure Ariadne, the cursed immortal Kundry, and the fiercely independent Rroma smuggler Carmen.


What really impresses me about her, besides the intensity and precision of her voice, is how she can change the mood of her singing on a dime. I have a recording of her singing Schubert’s art-song “The Erl-King”, in which the singer has to portray the narrator, a distraught father, his dying child, and the erl-king (coaxing the child to come with him into the beyond.) With her one voice she manages to portray all four characters so well that even though my German is pathetic I can always understand who’s supposed to be speaking.

….and, look, I found video of her singing it! Check this out. TW for death of a child, if you speak German.

Lesendes Mädchen (before 1937). Emil Rau (German, 1858-1937). Oil on canvas.

Rau studied at the Dresden Academy of Art. He was a genre painter, working to preserve a colorful and rich Bavarian heritage, often portraying subjects in their traditional costumes and placing them in traditional German landscapes.

anonymous said:

i've seen a german yelling on the s-bahn, fighting on the streets and then make up like nothing is happened, but i've always been wondering, how german couple break up? what do they say when a couple want to break up?

lol honestly, that’s different for any single couple.

Here’s just the most basic vocabulary:

sich von jemandem trennen ~ to split up with someone

mit jemandem Schluss machen ~ to break up with someone

eine Beziehung beenden = to end a relationship

sich scheiden lassen = to get a divorce, to divorce someone

So if you want to break up with someone in German, you could for example say “Ich mache Schluss” or “Ich mache Schluss mit dir”.

What was tweeted: So weir ich weis nichy Zach werde Deutschland!

What I’m thinking he TRIED to type: Soweit ich weiss [wtf were you saying Kevin] Zach werde Deutschland!

Translation: As far as I know [x] Zach will Germany.

he doesn’t have a fucking verb! which makes me angry. nichy isn’t a fucking word (did he mean nicht?). nicht means no or not. i think he was trying to say that as far as he knows zach isn’t going to germany (unfortunate but probably true).

Proper German: Soweit ich weiß, Zach ist nicht zu Deutschland. (which is exactly what google translate gave me).

I don’t know what the fuck website or whatever Kevin Rance was using but it sucked. He tried to use future tense and screwed everything up because his words were in the wrong order at the very least.