Photo credit: Nola Vieux Photography


(pictured left to right)
OperaCréole singers Crystal Morris, Valerie Jones Francis, Eldric Bashful, Ebonee Davis, Tyrone Chambers, Aria Mason, Brandon Richardson,Givonna Joseph, and Ivan Griffin, are professional artists who live in or are from New Orleans, “The First City of Opera”!

The first opera eve performed in the United States was “Sylvain” by Gretry, and it was performed here in New Orleans in 1797.

From that point on, opera was a part of every day life. Whether you were a slave or free person of color, you attended the opera.

Les Gens de Couleur Libres, (Free people of color) played a great role in the orchestras of the opera houses, and concert halls. They were musicians, and composers . The first independent orchestra was formed by 100 free men of color and a few whites in 1840.

The 1838 New Orleans city directory published this image of the Orleans Theatre along with a two-page description of the building. Attached to the theatre proper was the Orleans Ballroom, which, according to legend if not fact, was the scene of the Crescent City’s famed Quadroon Balls. In later years the building, on Orleans Street between Royal and Bourbon, served as the convent of the Sisters of the Holy Family, the religious order founded in New Orleans by Henriette Delille in 1842. It is now part of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel.

The “Theatre de Orleans”, now the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, was the site of many American premieres of new opera works from Europe! It was the first theater to open the stage to people of color. Free Composers o of Color like Edmond Dede, Lucien Lambert, and Samuel Snaer premiered their work here.

The French Opera House (now the site of the Inn on Bourbon) stood at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse Streets from 1859 until it was destroyed by fire in 1919. Designed by James Gallier, Jr. The building went up in less than a year at a cost of $118,500 and for the next sixty years, it was the center of social activity in New Orleans. Not only opera was held there, but also Carnival balls, debuts, benefits, receptions, and concerts. During the tenure of A.P. Canonge as manager, the opera house was fully integrated. People of color, slave and free purchased tickets to the opera.

In the early 1900s Jelly Roll Morton, the Father of Jazz was inspired to take piano lessons after attending a recital here.

The Louisiana Creole Research Association presented OperaCréole in its inaugural concert at 6:00 p.m on May 21, 2011 at the historic St. Mary’s Church next to the Old Ursuline Convent in the French Quarter.

Opera and classical music in New Orleans and around the world have always included the contributions of persons of color. The Creoles of New Orleans, have made contributions to the music and culture of New Orleans. It is their participation in opera, as well as the music of Africa, Spain, and Haiti that contributed to the birth of jazz. This is true for many people of African descent around the world.

We are dedicated to educating students, and sharing with the community the contributions of our people to this musical art form.

OperaCréole singers Crystal Morris, Valerie Jones Francis, Eldric Bashful, Ebonee Davis, Tyrone Chambers, Aria Mason, Brandon Richardson,Givonna Joseph, and Ivan Griffin, are professional artists who live in or are from New Orleans, “The First City of Opera”!

We are international and regional soloists, and artist educators. Many of us are also members of the professional New Orleans Opera Chorus, and have performed roles with the company.

OperaCréole singers were recently featured in New Orleans Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess, October 15-17, 2010.

Featured Artists at our 2011 Salon:

Givonna Joseph, mezzo-soprano
Ms. Givonna Joseph is deeply committed to the culture of New Orleans, city of her birth.This is most evident in her concerts featuring the 19th Century classical music of New Orleans Free People of Color.

The mezzo-soprano recently reprised her role as “Lily” in “Porgy and Bess” with New Orleans Opera this fall. She was previously heard as one of the three “Abati” in New Orleans Opera’s “Manon Lescaut”, and is a member of the professional chorus.
An award winning arts educator and music therapist, Ms. Joseph is currently a Master Teaching Artist with Young Audiences of Louisiana, a teaching artist with New Orleans Opera’s MetroPelican program, and a private vocal instructor.
Ms. Joseph has performed in concert at such venues as The American Church In Paris in Paris, France and La Chiesa di Santa Susanna in Rome, Italy. She has been a soloist with the William Grant Still Orchestra, the Symphony Chorus of New Orleans, and as a cantor for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s New Orleans visit. In the 2006-2007 season, she was a chorister with Houston Grand Opera . The creator of “WomanSong”, a one woman show, she was also heard as an opening artist for Ray Charles in Concert at Jones Hall in Houston, TX.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Givonna served as Music Director/Cantor at St. Rose of Lima Church, and Director of Education for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
Ms. Joseph, a Loyola University alumna, has studied with Charles Paddock, Philip and Ellen Frohnmayer, George Shirley (Metropolitan Opera, University of Michigan), Patricia O’Neill (LSU), and Kathleen Kaun (Rice University).
The arts advocate is also a member of LA Creole (Louisiana Creole Research Association), and Founder/Director of OperaCreole, a new ensemble in New Orleans.
She is the cantor for the Saturday Vigil Mass at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church on St. Charles Avenue. She has often be heard at Masses at Our Lady of The Rosary Church, and at many other churches around the city.
Member of American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), and The Louisiana Touring Directory

Vickie Thomas
Vickie R Thomas, soprano, hails from New Orleans, Louisiana. She has performed with Tulane Summer Lyric, Little Theater of the Rockies, Jefferson Performing Arts Society, Le Petit, Xavier University of Louisiana Opera Theater, University of New Orleans Opera Theater, University of Northern Colorado Opera Theater, and Loveland Opera Theater. She has performed in such productions as Die Zauberflote, The Medium, The Consul, Suor Angelica, Big River, Mahalia, Showboat, Babes in Toyland. The Stoned Guest, Blood Brothers, Gianni Schicci, and Carmen Jones. She obtained her bachelor’s degree under the tutelage of Dr. Raquel Cortina at the University of New Orleans and did her graduate work under Charmaine Coppom at the University of Northern Colorado. She is also an alumni of the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts in both voice and piano performance. In March of 2010 Vickie was a member of the Video Games Live performance with the Louisiana Philharmonic as well as a participant in a relief concert to help raise funds for the victims of Haiti. She is in her third season with the New Orleans Opera as a proud member of the New Orleans Opera Chorus where she has also been a guest soloist for their Opera on Tap performances. She performed as a guest soloist for Porgy on the Levee with New Orleans Opera as well as sang several small chorus solo parts in their fall 2010 production of “Porgy and Bess”. She also performs frequently with the New Orleans Symphony Chorus. In March 2011 she joins the guest artist roster in the New Orleans Opera Associations Metropelican Opera Division as The Mother/Witch for “Hansel and Gretel”.
She currently teaches voice at the Celebration School of Fine Arts through Celebration Church where she also sings in the Worship Choir.

Crystal Morris
Crystal Morris, soprano, is a Junior, Music Vocal Performance Major from Jackson, Mississippi. Her previous roles include Monica in The Medium, which was her first fully stage operatic role, Mrs. Florentino in Street Scene and Eva from An Embarrassing Position. Crystal has also been the Soprano soloist for numerous Oratorios such as John Rutter’s Requiem and Magnificant, and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and The Creation. Crystal spent the summer in Italy singing with the La Musica Lirica Opera Company singing in the Chorus of La Traviata and sang the role of Adina in L’Elisir D’amore. She also sang on several concerts while in Italy. Crystal is a member of the New Orleans Opera Chorus where she recently opened the season as a soloist in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. This semester, Crystal sang Sussana in The Marriage of Figaro in Xavier Opera Workshop. Crystal is also a soloist and chorus member at Trinity Episcopal Church. After her completion of her degree at Xavier, Crystal plans on continuing her operatic studies in a Graduate school program. Crystal currently studies with Operatic soprano Dara Rhaming. Crystal is a member the National Opera Association, NAACP and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

Wilfred Delphin (accompanist)
Wilfred Delphin, DMA, pianist, is professor at Xavier University.