Performer Biographies

Leah Hawkins, soprano

A native of Philadelphia and recent graduate of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at The Metropolitan Opera, soprano Leah Hawkins has given recent performances at The Metropolitan Opera including Porgy & Bess (Strawberry Woman), Pique Dame (Masha), Suor Angelica (Alms Collector), and Aida (High Priestess). She made her Colorado Symphony debut in the Verdi Requiem, gave a recital at the Park Avenue Armory, and returned to the National Symphony Orchestra for a Labor Day Concert.

Additional concert appearances have included The Philadelphia Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, The Apollo Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. She has received awards from The Young Patronesses of the Opera/Florida Grand Opera Vocal Competition, The Chautauqua Opera Guild, Yale School of Music, George London Foundation, Marcello Giordani Foundation, Opera Ebony, NANBPWC, Inc., and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Visit Website

Leona Mitchell, soprano

Soprano Leona Mitchell was born in Enid, Oklahoma, to Rev. Hulon and Pearl Olive Leatherman Mitchell. Tenth of fifteen children, Leona Mitchell began her musical journey by singing in her father’s church choir. She received a scholarship from Oklahoma City University, in 1971 earning a bachelor’s degree in music. Mitchell debuted with the San Francisco Spring Opera Theater in 1972 and received an Opera America grant, which allowed her to study with Ernest St. John Metz in Los Angeles. On December 15, 1975, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen, the same role she had sung at her debut.

This marked the beginning of her many performances in opera houses all over the world, including Geneva, Paris, Madrid, and Sydney. Mitchell performed for eighteen consecutive seasons at the Metropolitan, a testament to her voice and professionalism. Well known for her performances in operas by Puccini and Verdi, she also sang Bess in the London Records recording of the George Gershwin classic Porgy and Bess, with the Cleveland Orchestra. Mitchell was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2004. She was also honored by a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature in 1985. She has performed for two presidents and at the inauguration of Charles Bradford Henry as governor of Oklahoma in 2003. Visit Website

Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano

Recognized worldwide as one of today’s most exciting vocal stars, Denyce Graves continues to garner unparalleled acclaim in performances around the world. This season, Ms. Graves performs at Jazz at Lincoln Center in a retrospective on the career of Terrance Blanchard. She also participates in a program hosted by the Trust of the National Mall, as well as a special presented by PBS entitled “United in Song: Celebrating the Resilience of America.”

She is the recipient of many awards, including the Grand Prix du Concours International de Chant de Paris and Marian Anderson Award. She is a member of the voice faculty at the Peabody Institute, and recently became a distinguished visiting faculty member at The Juilliard School. Visit Website

Krysty Swann, mezzo-soprano

Acclaimed mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann has been hailed for her beautiful and rich voice, as well as her captivating presence onstage. The Washington Post declares, “Krysty Swann has a voice, and she knows how to use it…[She] displayed an instrument of immense power, natural beauty of tone and luscious legato line.”

The Philadelphia-born, Detroit raised, New York-based mezzo-soprano was featured on the cover of Opera News with the great Dolora Zajick. This season, Ms. Swann will be returning to the esteemed roster of The Metropolitan Opera for their productions of Elektra and Akhnaten. Visit Website

Issachah Savage, tenor

Dramatic tenor Issachah Savage has received recognition and career grants from many institutions including the Wagner Societies of New York, Washington, D. C., and Northern California; Licia Albanese International Puccini Foundation; the Marcello Giordani International Competition; and Giulio Gari Foundation.

He has performed in the houses of The Metropolitan Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Austin Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and San Francisco Opera. In concert, he has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Utah Symphony, and Melbourne Symphony in Australia. Visit Website

Noah Stewart, tenor

Harlem-born tenor Noah Stewart has established himself as one of the most sought-after singers of his generation and has performed as a guest artist with many opera companies, both in the US and Europe.

His roles include, Cavaradossi (Opera New Orleans, Birmingham Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Nederlandse Reisopera), Rodolfo (Opera Columbus, Nashville Opera, Florentine Opera, New Orleans Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Orlando Philharmonic, Wexford Opera Festival), Luigi in Il Tabarro (Castleton Festival), and Pinkerton (New Jersey Festival Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Opera North), as well as contemporary repertoire such as Greenhorn in Heggie’s Moby Dick (Opera San José).

On the concert stage, Mr. Stewart has appeared with notable orchestras and has performed on three BBC Proms concerts. In 2012, he became the first black musician ever to top the UK Classical Album Charts (CD Noah by DECCA). Visit Website

Davóne Tines, bass-baritone

Davóne Tines is a path-breaking artist whose work encompasses a diverse repertoire and also explores the social issues of today.

As a black, gay, classically trained performer at the intersection of many histories, cultures, and aesthetics, his work blends opera, art song, contemporary classical, spirituals, gospel, and songs of protest as a means to tell a deeply personal story of perseverance that connects to all of humanity.

He has premiered works created by today’s leading living composers and directors including Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West at San Francisco Opera and the Dutch National Opera. Visit Website

Kevin Thompson, bass

American bass Kevin Thompson possesses a voice with extraordinary range, depth, color combined with a commanding stage presence. “A mountain of a voice, with resonance from the Escorial of Philip II, the throne of Boris Godunov, and the majestic court of Sarastro…Thompson delivered all the goods.” (San Francisco Classical Voice).

He has made debuts with Tulsa Opera (Rigoletto, 2020) New York City Opera, New Orleans Opera, Opera Carolina, Bard Opera, National Philharmonic, Opera Santa Barbara, Odyessy Opera, Hannover Staatsoper, Fundacion Teatro Nacional Sucre in Ecuador, Teatro Verdi Trieste, Hong Kong Opera, Teatro Regio Parma, Theater Kiel, the Gasteig in Munich and the Wexford Opera.

Mr. Thompson was born in Washington, D. C. He is an alumnus of The Juilliard School in New York, San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Program and the Santa Fe Opera Program. Visit Website

Howard Watkins, pianist & concert co-curator

American pianist Howard Watkins is a frequent associate of some of the world’s leading musicians on the concert stage and as an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera.

His appearances throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia, Russia, and Israel have included collaborations with Joyce DiDonato, Diana Damrau, Kathleen Battle, Grace Bumbry, Mariusz Kwiecien, Anna Netrebko, and Matthew Polenzani at such venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Spivey Hall, Kennedy Center, the United States Supreme Court, Alice Tully Hall, the three stages of Carnegie Hall, and the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Mr. Watkins completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Accompanying and Chamber Music at the University of Michigan. Honored as the 2004 recipient of the Paul C. Boylan award from the University of Michigan for his outstanding contributions to the field of music, he is also the 2019 recipient of the Lift Every Voice Legacy Award from the National Opera Association. Visit Website