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Music Inside Out: Givonna Joseph and OperaCréole

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Illinois State University
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OperaCréole: Wilfred Delphin, pianist; Valerie Jones Francis, soprano; Tyrone Chambers, tenor; Crystal Morris, soprano; Givonna Joseph, mezzo soprano; Brandon Richardson, baritone; Aria Mason, mezzo soprano. Not pictured: Ivan Griffin, bass."

Givonna Joseph and her New Orleans-based troupe, OperaCréole, tackle some of opera's most challenging works with gusto, including early compositions written by free people of color in the United States and Europe. So, in addition to Bizet and Puccini and Verdi and Gershwin, OperaCréole gives full attention to composers Andre Ernest Gretry, Edmond Dede, Lucien Lambert and Samuel Snaer, among others.

In doing so, OperaCréole is continuing one of the nation's longest running opera traditions. New Orleans was home to North America's first opera house.

But don't think that Joseph's interests are exclusively operatic. Tune in for her take on scat singing, Kathleen Battle, Mary J. Blige, and James Brown... Yes, THAT James Brown. Tune in for perhaps the wildest opera duet of all time.

Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.