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Opera Saratoga Free Digital Concert Series – America Sings

May 21, 2021

Opera Saratoga announced today that AMERICA SINGS, the company’s free concert series that was created to amplify the voices of artists from racial groups historically underrepresented on the concert stage, will return to Caffè Lena this month on Friday, May 21st, welcoming baritone Justin Austin and pianist/composer Damien Sneed to its historic venue for A Tribute to Langston Hughes. The free concert will take place at 7pm ET, Friday, May 21st, 2021. To access the concert, and for additional information please visit: www.operasaratoga.org/america-sings

Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. One of the earliest innovators of jazz poetry, Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to poetry, Hughes wrote plays and short stories, and collaborated with many composers – including Kurt Weill on the Broadway opera Street Scene; and William Grant Still on Troubled Island. Justin and Damien’s all Langston Hughes program will feature songs by Margaret Bonds, Robert Owens, Damien Sneed, and Ricky Ian Gordon.

All concerts in Opera Saratoga’s AMERICA SINGS series are livestreamed to the public for free, but viewers are encouraged to contribute through a virtual tip jar during each event to support both Opera Saratoga and the featured artists. All “tips” made during each concert will be split equally between Opera Saratoga and the featured artists, providing vital support to artists who have been financially impacted by the shutdown of live opera performances across the country. Each event is livestreamed on Caffè Lena’s YouTube Channel, and the Facebook pages of both Opera Saratoga and Caffè Lena. AMERICA SINGS is presented with generous leadership support from Greenberg Traurig, LLP, and hospitality sponsorship from The Hampton Inn & Suites, Saratoga Springs.

Justin Austin has been performing professionally since age 4. Born in Stuttgart, Germany to professional opera singer parents, Justin began his singing career as a boy soprano performing at venues such as Teatro Real, Bregenzer Festspiele, Lincoln Center, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. While working with directors such as Götz Friedrich and Tazewell Thompson, Justin was able to realize his love for music and performance early on. As a baritone, he received his Master’s Degree from Manhattan School of Music, and has since developed an impressive career in opera, concert, and song repertoire. An alumnus of Opera Saratoga’s Young Artist Program, Justin made his debut with the company as the Father in Hansel and Gretel in 2019. For the 2020/21 season, he was scheduled to create the leading role of George in the world premiere of the Lincoln Center Theater and The Metropolitan Opera co-commissioned opera Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage and Ricky Ian Gordon, directed by Bartlett Sher. Rescheduled performances are to be announced next year. Justin debuted with the Moab Music Festival as a resident artist and made his return to the New York Festival of Song for a virtual concert series. Austin also recently starred in a film adaptation of The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht produced by City Lyric Opera. As a multifaceted musician, Mr. Austin performs a wide range of repertoire from Jazz, R&B, and Musical Theatre to Opera and Oratorio. Justin has collaborated with multiple groups and artists such as Aretha Franklin, The Boys Choir of Harlem, Mary J. Blidge, Elton John, Lauryn Hill, The Roots, 30 Seconds to Mars, John Cale, Ricky Ian Gordon, Damien Sneed, Kanye West, and jazz legends Reggie Workman, Hugh Masekela, and Wynton Marsalis.

Damien Sneed is a pianist, organist, conductor, composer, producer, arranger, and arts educator whose work spans multiple genres. Damien has worked with jazz, classical, pop, and R&B legends including the late Aretha Franklin, Wynton Marsalis, Jessye Norman, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Ashford & Simpson, Lawrence Brownlee, and many others. The multi-genre recording artist is a recipient of the prestigious Sphinx Medal of Excellence, which is presented annually to emerging Black and Latino leaders in classical music. Recently, Damien embarked on a 36-city North American tour, “We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. featuring Damien Sneed.” Damien is the founder and artistic director of Chorale Le Chateau, which has gained a global reputation for its vivid interpretations of vocal literature, from Renaissance period pieces to art songs to jazz, spirituals, gospel, and avant-garde contemporary music. He is featured on the recording of Wynton Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass as a conductor, with Marsalis, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and Chorale Le Chateau. Damien joined the acclaimed staff of the Houston Grand Opera (HGOco) as Music Director and Composer in Residence and served as cover conductor for HGO mainstage productions under Patrick Summers, Artistic and Music Director for the 2018 – 2019 season. He was commissioned to compose a new chamber opera called Marian’s Song about the life of Marian Anderson for Houston Grand Opera, which had its critically acclaimed world premiere in March of 2020; and his new opera, The Tongue and the Lash, will premiere at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis this June.

Opera Saratoga, formerly known as Lake George Opera, began with a production of Die Fledermaus at the Diamond Point Theatre on July 5, 1962, playing to an audience of 230. The Company now calls Saratoga Springs home and performs for more than 25,000 people annually. Opera Saratoga celebrates its 60th Anniversary this season. The company serves the communities of Saratoga Springs, the Lower Adirondack and New York State Capital areas by providing access to world-class opera through the production of an annual Summer Festival, as well as year-round activities including extensive educational programs, mentorship of emerging operatic artists, and unique opportunities for the public to experience opera in both our home theater and non-traditional venues that leverage and embrace the unique cultural, historic, and natural resources of the area. To date, the company has performed 104 different fully staged works by 65 different composers, including 42 works by American composers and 14 premiere productions. In 2014, the Board of Directors appointed Lawrence Edelson Opera Saratoga’s Artistic and General Director. Edelson’s leadership has marked a new chapter in the company’s history, with increased emphasis on community partnerships throughout the year, diversification of the company’s repertoire, and a reaffirmed commitment to both the presentation of American opera and the mentorship of emerging artists as core activities in the company’s programs each season. For more information, visit www.operasaratoga.org.


May 21, 2021