Opera Memphis Announces Second McCleave Fellowship Recipient
Opera Memphis announces the second participant in The McCleave Fellowships - Bethania Baray. A first-of-its-kind program launched in 2018, The McCleave Fellowships are designed to identify and nurture emerging artists, directors, and conductors of color in opera and are the second phase of The McCleave Project established by Opera Memphis in 2017.
Bethania Baray, the new McCleave Fellow in Directing, was first involved with Opera Memphis in 2013 as an ensemble member in Elixir of Love. Over the next six years, Baray remained active with Opera Memphis singing in 30 Days of Opera, performing roles in mainstage productions, and assistant directing L'italiana in Algeri in 2018.
When asked why she became interested in The McCleave Fellowships, Baray answers, "The McCleave Project seeks to deepen engagement with more diverse communities. As a Latina, I have a desire to showcase and examine Latino culture through the storytelling of opera. It's also a great drive of mine to expand this art form to a larger audience that includes the Latino community. Latinos are full of passion, love for music, and determination. I can't think of a more appropriate art form."
"Opera is made up of multiple disciplines, working together," stated Opera Memphis General Director and CEO, Ned Canty. "Bethania is one of those rare talents that can excel in several of them. As a singer, she has been a company favorite for years. As a director, I think she has the vision, intelligence, and skill to succeed at the highest levels of the field."
During her time as a McCleave Fellow in Directing, Baray will assistant direct each of Opera Memphis' mainstage productions for the 2019-20 season, as well as direct Mozart's Bastien and Bastienne in April of 2020. She will also design and facilitate new community programs, including several created for Memphians who speak Spanish as a first language.
"I would like for all Latinos to know that opera is for them! We all want to be heard. We all have different ways of expressing ourselves. We all struggle, hurt, fight, rejoice, and feel joy. Communities that have felt marginalized need programs like these to reach out so that we can open our eyes to the views of others and see a variety of visions of the world."
The McCleave Project is a collection of initiatives named for Florence Cole Talbert McCleave, the groundbreaking African-American soprano who spent three decades singing and teaching in Memphis. The project addresses issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion in opera--onstage, backstage, and in the audience. The McCleave Project is part of a portfolio of civic impact work Opera Memphis has built over the past several years, beginning with their award-winning 30 Days of Opera program. Their civic practice has garnered international recognition through OPERA America, the World Opera Forum in Madrid, Spain, and most recently the 2019 induction of Madame McCleave into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.
Those interested in learning more about The McCleave Project & Fellowships should visit operamemphis.org/mccleave or call Opera Memphis at 901.257.3100.