Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Washington National Opera Presents Marian Anderson Vocal Award 2021 Recipient, Frederick Ballentine


Gifted tenor to give intimate recital in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, December 7, 2021 at 7:30 p.m..

Named for the groundbreaking African American contralto, the Marian Anderson Vocal Award recognizes a young American singer in opera, oratorio, or recital repertoire with outstanding promise for a significant career. Earlier this year, Washington National Opera (WNO) named tenor Frederick Ballentine as the 2021 recipient and will present him in concert on Tuesday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.

A Virginia native, Ballentine is a 2018 alumnus of WNO's Cafritz Young Artist Program and has since rapidly established himself as one of the most sought-after artists today, making his Metropolitan Opera debut as Sportin' Life in the 201 9-2020 production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Ballentine curated the program to reflect "the journey of Black and LGBT people of America. Our separation from the whole. Our constant oppression. Our lost loves and souls. But most beautifully, our resilience." Ballentine organized his recital in several "movements." The first, "Shut Me Out," begins with the somber spiritual Sometimes I feel like a motherless child. These movement headings capture the emotional range of the program, with sections entitled "Goin' Up In Smoke," "Requiem," and "So Loud, So Proud." The repertoire doubly reflects this range, given both Franz Schubert and Nina Simone were selected for this program. Ballentine will be accompanied by pianist Kunal Lahiry.

In addition to the recital presented by WNO, Ballentine received a $10,000 cash prize and will lead a master class with students in the Vocal Music program at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Washington D.C.'s visual and performing arts high school. Ballentine was selected by a distinguished panel comprising Lawrence Brownlee (Marian Anderson Award Recipient and Distinguished Visiting Faculty, The Juilliard School ), Roderick Cox (conductor), Samuel Gelber (Director of Artistic Planning, WNO), Denyce Graves (Marian Anderson Award Recipient, Distinguished Visiting Faculty, The Juilliard School, and Rosa Ponselle Distinguished Faculty Artist/Voice, The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University), David Lomelí (Chief Artistic Officer, Santa Fe Opera), Christina Scheppelmann (General Director, Seattle Opera), Karen Slack (Artistic Advisor, Portland Opera), Melissa Wegner (Executive Director, Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and Laffont Competition, Metropolitan Opera), and Francesca Zambello (Artistic Director, WNO and Artistic & General Director, The Glimmerglass Festival).

In order to honor Ms. Anderson's personal and humanitarian achievements, the Award encourages service and education, enabling exemplary artists to connect with the community. Aligning with Ballentine's skills and interest, his educational program at the Duke Ellington School aims to positively impact vocal music students. The school offers a pre-college preparatory and comprehensive arts curriculum, which includes a major in vocal music. With more than 50 of the school's vocal students invited to attend the master class, select students will have the opportunity to perform and receive the artist's feedback and advice.

Prior Award recipients include the 2020 winner Will Liverman, Soloman Howard, Ryan Speedo Green, John Holliday, Janai Brugger, Jamie Barton, J'nai Bridges, Sasha Cooke, Indira Mahajan, Lawrence Brownlee, Eric Owens, Marguerite Krull, Nathan Gunn, Michelle DeYoung, Patricia Racette, Nancy Maultsby, Philip Zawisza, Denyce Graves, and Sylvia McNair.

Tickets are $39 and are available online, in person at the Kennedy Center Box Office, and by calling (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324. Groups of 10 or more may contact the Kennedy Center Group Sales office at (202) 416-8400. For all other ticket-related customer service inquiries, call the Advance Sales Box Office at (202) 416-8540.

Hailing from Norfolk, Virginia, Grammy Award-winning tenor Frederick ­Ballentine is the 2021 recipient of the Kennedy Center's Marian Anderson Award, and an alumnus of both Washington National Opera's Cafritz Young Artists program and the Los Angeles Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program. In the 2021-2022 season he joins the Staatstheater Kassel, where he makes his role debut as the Drum Major in Wozzeck. Additionally, he returns to the Metropolitan Opera to reprise the role of Sportin' Life in Porgy and Bess, debuts the role of Nick in The Handmaid's Tale at English National Opera, and joins Cincinnati Opera for the rescheduled premiere of Castor and Patience.

Mr. Ballentine's scheduled engagements for the 2020-2021 season included his first performances of Rodolfo in La bohème with Opera Memphis (postponed) and Florentine Opera (postponed), Dr. Richardson in Breaking the Waves with Los Angeles Opera (cancelled), and Miles Zegner in Proving Up with Lyric Opera of Chicago's Lyric Unlimited series (postponed). Originally slated to sing Don José in Houston Grand Opera's cancelled production of Carmen, he instead sang Herr Vogelsang in a digital production of Mozart's The Impresario. He continued his work with Houston Grand Opera in recital with Lawrence Brownlee for their Giving Voice series, celebrating treasured Black artists, and appeared in a filmed recital from Seattle Opera's Tagney Jones Hall. During the summer, Ballentine was slated to sing Judah in the world premiere of Castor and Patience with Cincinnati Opera (postponed).

Mr. Ballentine's original engagements for the COVID-19 shortened 2019-2020 season featured his debut with the Metropolitan Opera as Sportin' Life in Porgy and Bess (performed), and returns to Seattle Opera as Charlie Parker in Charlie Parker's Yardbird (performed) and Los Angeles Opera as Monastatos in Die Zauberflöte (performed). He also planned a return to Washington National Opera as Sportin' Life in Porgy and Bess (cancelled), Cincinnati Opera to create the role of Judah in the world premiere of Gregory Spears's Castor and Patience (postponed), and his debut in the title role of Les contes d'Hoffmann with Opera Louisiane (postponed). In concert, he made his debut with the New Jersey Symphony for Handel's Messiah (performed).

He has trained with the Aspen Music Opera Center and The Opera Theatre of St. Louis, who awarded him the Thelma Steward Endowed Artist Alumni Award.

Mr. Ballentine has performed with the Los Angeles Opera on multiple occasions as a former Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist. His most notable performances were in Barrie Kosky's wildly popular production of Die Zauberflöte. He is featured on the company's recently produced CD of The Ghosts of Versailles, and returned to the company in the role of Amon in Philip Glass's Akhnaten.

In concert, Mr. Ballentine has appeared as a featured soloist with the New York Choral Society for their Christmas Concert, with Naples Philharmonic and the Colburn School for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Beethoven's Choral Fantasy and Arvo Pärt's Miserere, and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela as Pang in Turandot.

American contralto Marian Anderson was one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century. She became an important figure in the struggle for African American artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States when, in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for her to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. The incident thrust Anderson into the spotlight of the international community on a level unusual for a classical musician. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience of millions.

She continued to break barriers, becoming the first African American artist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on January 7, 1955. Her performance as Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi's Un ballo in maschera was the only time she sang an opera role on stage. She later worked for several years as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and for the U.S. Department of State, giving concerts all over the world. She participated in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, singing at the March on Washington in 1963. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the National Medal of Arts in 1986, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.

The impetus for The Marian Anderson Vocal Award was provided by June Goodman of Danbury, Connecticut, a friend of Anderson's who wished to recognize the outstanding qualities of the groundbreaking African American singer. The Marian Anderson Award Foundation then established the Award at Fairfield County's Community Foundation. In September 2002, the Kennedy Center and Fairfield County's Community Foundation collaborated to create a permanent tribute to Anderson's historic artistic achievements by presenting a cash prize of $10,000 and a recital at the Kennedy Center for one outstanding singer.

Related Articles View More Washington, DC Stories

Buy at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More

More Hot Stories For You