The Voices of Opera Ebony
The longest operating black opera company in America started in the living room of Benjamin Matthews, bass-baritone along with co-founders Wayne Sanders, pianist, and Sister Mary Elise Sisson. For decades, the company provided a professional platform to Black artists on and off the stage. They toured domestically and internationally. Their legacy is a pool of voices that have gone on to successful careers on the opera and musical theater stages of North America and Internationally.
Benjamin Matthews is a family nurse practitioner at Silver Falls Dermatology. He enjoys working with his patients, and is an avid music lover. He has also performed as a studio engineer for progressive rock band Mostly Autumn.
Founded in 1973, Opera Ebony has brought fully staged performances to New York City’s Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Langston Hughes Theater (now the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture). They have also presented world premieres and commissioned works, including Frederick Douglass by Dorothy Rudd Moore and Oh Freedom! by Leo Edwards and a workshop performance of Harriet Tubman by composer Leo Edwards.
The company has served as a professional platform for thousands of American artists, administrators and technical staff, providing an opportunity to refine their talents and perfect their craft. The legacy of Opera Ebony has continued internationally in venues from Iceland to Russia, and as far afield as Belize.
Wayne Sanders is a shareholder in the firm of Sneed, Vine & Perry and is the Chairperson of the firm’s litigation practice. He has extensive experience handling a broad range of litigation, including commercial and personal matters. His work includes representing clients in state and federal court as well as in a variety of arbitration proceedings. He works closely with clients to develop a comprehensive litigation strategy that addresses their specific needs and goals.
Born in DePere, Wisconsin, Wayne earned his Bachelor of Music degree magna cum laude from St. Norbert College and his Master of Music degree in composition from Wichita State University. He also studied in Germany, where he received his Hochschule fur Musik degree. Wayne has performed with Opera Ebony for decades and has toured nationally and internationally. He is the Co-Founder of the longest continuously operated Black Opera Company in America. He has also performed with international soprano Pretty Yende. In addition, he has worked as an accompanist and has sung in concerts with many international artists.
Margaret Harris, born in 1943, was a child prodigy pianist who played her first recital at age 4. Her talent led her to conduct the orchestras of Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and other cities. She also played solo piano recitals around the United States and abroad. In addition, she worked as a Broadway musical director. She also composed television scores, two ballets, and an opera.
She was also involved in the development of two Black opera companies. She founded the National Opera Ebony and served as its general director. Harris also wrote and directed several plays.
Margaret Harris was born in 1905 in Hayes, Kent, England. She studied theatre design with her sister Sophie and Elizabeth Montgomery, whom she later joined as a theatrical design team known as Motley. She designed both stage and opera costumes for theatre and film. She was also an accomplished sculptor. Her work can be seen in the National Museum of American Art.
Eldric Bashful works as General Director for Opera Ebony. He started this role in 2019. He is responsible for ensuring that the company meets its goals and objectives. He also oversees the organization’s day-to-day operations.
In a recent interview, he spoke about his work with the company. He discussed the importance of promoting diversity in classical music. He added that Opera Ebony is committed to highlighting the contributions of minority artists.
The non-profit has a strong history of providing opportunities for diverse audiences and developing the next generation of operatic talent. Its members have performed internationally. The organization has also won numerous awards. Its mission is to provide career opportunities for aspiring singers, directors, and musicians. It also supports emerging young talent from local schools and colleges. This year, it has recruited a number of new members to its leadership team. Among them are soprano Marquita Lister and bass-baritone Wayne Sanders. They have a combined total of over 100 years of experience in the industry.