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The History and Mission of OperaCréole


Opera and classical music in New Orleans and around the world have always included the contributions of persons of color. Since the 19th century, Creoles of New Orleans have made contributions to the city's music and culture. It is their participation in opera, as well as the music of Africa, Spain, and Haiti, that contributed to the birth of jazz.

Our award-winning nonprofit, founded in 2011 by the mother-and-daughter team of Givonna Joseph and Aria Mason, is dedicated to researching and performing lost or rarely performed works by composers of African descent. The company focuses on works by free 19th-century New Orleanian composers of color, and also on promoting Louisiana's Creole language and culture.

The word Créole means "native to the place"; and, in keeping with the spirit of the word, OperaCréole's singers are professional artists, educators, and international soloists with roots in New Orleans, America's "First City of Opera!" (The first opera performed in what is now the United States took place in New Orleans in 1796.)

OperaCréole's groundbreaking work, including the 2017 production of the lost opera La Flamenca (1903) by Lucien Lambert, has been acknowledged nationally by NPR (National Public Radio), The New Yorker, and the AfriClassical Blog. In 2017, our founders were named among the Southerners of the Year by Southern Living, and OperaCréole has received numerous awards for contributions to the operatic sphere.

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

19th Century New Orleans Free Composers of Color:

Victor Eugene McCarthy

Charles Lucien Lambert, and France born son Lucien Lambert

Edmond Dédé

Samuel Snaêr

Basile Bares

and more

Our venues/contracts include:        

  • The Historic New Orleans Collection

  • The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Marigny Opera House

  • Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA)

  • Amistad Research Center

  • Music Box Village

  • N.O. Jazz and Heritage Festival

  • New Orleans Opera Association

  • The Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint

  • Council of French Societies

  • Louisiana Creole Research Association

  • Whitney Plantation/Slavery Museum

  • French Quarter Festival

  • Edgar (Dooky) and Leah Chase Foundation

  • Terrance Blanchard

  • N.O. Film Festival, "12 Years A Slave" premiere

  • Arts Council of New Orleans' "Community Arts Awards"

  • N.O. Jazz National Historical Park

  • Historic New Orleans Collection

  • Roots of Music Series: Ellis Marsalis Center for Music

  • The University of Illinois- Artist in Residence.     

OperaCréole presents:

  • Major productions of operas by African Americans and other composers of color

  • Historically themed concerts, including Creole Folksongs, and Jazz standards

  • Fun performances for private corporate events, special events, and conventions

  • Educational presentations for all age groups

  • Conference lectures and symposiums

We can tailor the number of singers to fit your budget when needed. Feel free to contact us with any questions!

Recent Awards

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