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March 14, 2024
Chris Cox, Director of Marketing and Communications
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Pittsburgh Opera celebrates Mary Cardwell Dawson and Black Opera in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Opera’s final production of their 2023-24 season celebrates the courage and persistence of one of Pittsburgh’s greatest citizens.

The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson is inspired by the true story of the founder of the National Negro Opera Company (NNOC), which was the first Black opera company in the United States. Mary Cardwell Dawson, a victim of that era’s segregationist policies, founded the company in Pittsburgh in 1941.

The NNOC, which performed nationally before disbanding in 1962 after Dawson’s death, was headquartered in the historic National Opera House (NOH) on Apple Street in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Homewood. The NOH, owned by Pittsburgh Opera Board Member Jonnet Solomon, is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar restoration to return it to its former glory.

The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson, a 70-minute ‘play with music’, has four performances at the Byham Theater in downtown Pittsburgh April 27-May 5.

Leading the cast will be Alyson Cambridge, making her Pittsburgh Opera debut bringing the role of Mary Cardwell Dawson to life, after her highly praised performances in the role at The Glimmerglass Festival. Christian Mark Gibbs and Meroë Khalia Adeeb also make their Pittsburgh Opera debuts, as Frank and Isabelle, respectively. Second year Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist Jazmine Olwalia sings the role of Phoebe.

In addition, Pittsburgh Opera and the National Opera House are having a series of community events throughout late March and April intended to honor the rich history of Black opera in Pittsburgh, as well as showcase how that legacy lives on today.

Details on The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson and the related community events can be found at the links below.