The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson is a new play with music, celebrating the founder of the historic and groundbreaking National Negro Opera Company and starring acclaimed mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves in the title role. The work, written by Mark Twain Award-winning playwright and librettist, Sandra Seaton, includes selections from the repertory of the National Negro Opera Company and original music composed by Carlos Simon.

“Madame Dawson was an arts pioneer, a woman of many firsts, whose remarkable story had been all but forgotten until recently. Mary Cardwell Dawson broke through incredible barriers to give voice to singers of color, creating opportunities that eventually brought them to major American opera house stages for the first time. It is an honor to champion her story — and that of the National Negro Opera Company she founded in 1941.” — Denyce Graves

“There are countless brilliant Black artists and innovators throughout history whose contributions have been kept in the dark or erased. They are long overdue to be elevated and celebrated, and Mary Cardwell Dawson’s story is chief among them. Her extraordinary accomplishments and advocacy for racial equity in the opera world at the height of the Jim Crow era serve as an inspiration and indication of how much progress we still need to make today. What a gift it is to share Mary Cardwell Dawson’s legacy on stage and enlighten those who need the hope she provides.” — Kimille Howard


View the Program


70 Minutes


Artistic Team

‡ member of the Young Artists Program

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