Angela M. Brown
A chorus of critics acclaimed soprano Angela Brown as "classical music's next great hope" when she made a sensational debut as the lead in a Metropolitan Opera production of Verdi's Aida in November 2004. The audience responded with what was described as a "roar" of applause to her performance as a substitute for the usual singer, who was ill.
Described as a performer in the tradition of Leontyne Price, a singer with a similar voice and background, Brown's sudden emergence as an opera star came at the end of a twenty-year journey that began in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she grew up as the daughter of an autoworker.
Brown sang gospel music in her grandfather's Baptist church throughout her childhood and young adult years. She also participated in numerous talent and variety shows in the Indianapolis area. After graduating from high school, she completed a degree in secretarial science.
As Brown entered her 20's, she lost a brother and, after a soul-searching look at her beliefs, became a Seventh-day Adventist. At age 22, she enrolled at Oakwood College, now university, where she spent the next five years working with Ginger Beazley in developing what Beazly recognized as an exceptional voice, one suited for opera.
Although Brown had entered OC planning to prepare for work as a gospel singer and Bible worker, Beazley and another talented student, Angelique Clay, who would eventually teach at OC, encouraged her to explore the possibility of becoming an opera singer. During the OC years, Beazley took Brown to her former teacher at Indiana University, noted soprano Virginia Zeani, for a master class. Zeani was excited by Brown's voice and her potential for a career in opera.
After graduating from OC in 1991, Brown went to IU, where she began graduate study and an arduous preparation for an opera career that included language study, numerous appearances in student produced operas, and competing in Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. After three attempts in the Met competitions, she won on her fourth try, in 1997, at the age of 33, the last year of eligibility.
Since leaving IU in the late 1990's, Brown has debuted at the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Carnegie Hall, and the Metropolitan Opera. Following her success at the Met in 2004, she has performed internationally in several prestigious venues.
She has recorded five CD's, the first being opera arias, art songs, and spirituals, accompanied on piano by former IU Dean Charles Webb (1995). A second recording with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra includes selections from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1997).
Other recordings in 1997 included a performance as guest artist on the Joy of Music Television Series in Heidelberg, Germany, and another of an appearance at the Hour of Power (Crystal Cathedral). A final CD, Mosaic, featuring African-American spirituals, accompanied by pianist Joseph Joubert, was released on the Albany Records label in 2004.
Critics have described her voice as an unusual combination of power and finesse. Opera Now has refered to it as a "powerhouse of an instrument, shimmering with colour and imaginatively used."
Sources: Ryan Piurek, "IU School of music alumna Angela Brown prepares for debuts Carnegie Hall and the Met, Media Relations, Indiana University, Media Relations, 7 June 2004; Anne Midgette, "For a Fill-In Aida, A Triumph Long in Coming," 9 November 2004, New York Times; Patricia C. McCarter, "She Roars, She Glows, She's Aida," The Huntsville Times, 11 November 2004; Michele Solomon, "Opera Diva Angel Brown Gives Back to Alma Mater," November 2006, Southern Tidings, 25; Wikipedia, last update, 11 February 2012.