Music Written By Black Women Composers
Hope Briggs, a native of New Jersey, is critically acclaimed. As a Verdean soprano, she is known for the depth and beauty of her voluptuous voice, and she has been hailed as “an artist of vocal sensitivity, theatrical wisdom, and integrity.”
She drew a rave review from Opera News for her San Francisco Opera debut as the Duchess of Parma in Busoni’s Doktor Faust, which said, “Hope Briggs was stellar, delivering one of the evening’s highlights with her lusciously intoned, lovelorn aria.”
Some career highlights, in addition to her San Francisco Opera debut, include Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and The First Lady in Die Zauberflöte at Frankfurt Opera, the Duchess of Parma in Busoni’s Doktor Faust at Staatstheater Stuttgart, the role of Paula in the world premiere of Hector Armienta’s River of Women, and Serena in Porgy and Bess at Tulsa and New Orleans Opera. Her commanding stage presence and moving interpretations have brought her to great success in regional companies as well, singing the title role in Aida with Nevada Opera, Sacramento Opera and Cedar Rapids Opera and Leonora in Il Trovatore with El Paso Opera, Opera Roanoke and Festival Opera of Walnut Creek as well as Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera with that company.
On the concert stage, Ms. Briggs has performed The Verdi Requiem, Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras, Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, Hanna in scenes from The Merry Widow with Pacific Symphony Orchestra, Barber’s Knoxville Summer of 1915 with the Marin Theater Company and Hailstork’s I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes with the San Antonio Symphony.
Highlights as a soloist include The Wondrous Sounds of Christmas at the San Francisco Symphony, The Opening Night Gala Concert with The Oakland East Bay Symphony, appearances at Carnegie Hall under Jacqueline Hairston and with Symphony Parnassus at San Francisco’s Herbst Theater, Hope Briggs and Friends: A Musical Valentine at San Francisco’s Herbst Theater, The California premiere of The Journey of Harriet Tubman by Ron Kean, and the World Premiere of Marion J. Caffey’s Three Mo’ Divas at the Lyceum Theater in San Diego.
Highlights as a recitalist include concerts by special invitation for Jessye Norman at Alliance FrançaiseTrophée des Arts Gala and Concerts at the Abbey in Seattle and Caio Melissa in Spoleto, Italy as well as for Oberlin Conservatory, African-Americans for Los Angeles Opera, Madewood Music Festival, and Afrosolo Music Festival at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Performing in San Francisco.
Hope Briggs is a Metropolitan Opera International Vocal Competition Award Winner, a Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions National Finalist, recipient of an Encouragement Award from the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation. She is an ABC KGO-TV 2012 African American Salutes Honoree, Marion Anderson Historical Society Scholar, and a 2013 Heritage Keeper Award Recipient from Friends of Negro Spirituals. Ms. Briggs is featured on PBS nationally performing the role of Emma Hyers in the documentary film: Voices for Freedom – The Hyers Sisters’ Legacy.
Shawnette Sulker has been described as a singer “…displaying a bright, superbly controlled soprano with perfectly placed coloratura.” On the operatic stage, Ms. Sulker has been a featured artist in three San Francisco Opera productions: Porgy and Bess, The Mother of Us All, and Louise. She was also a part of the joint production of Dido and Aeneas between San Francisco Opera and the Crucible, singing the roles of Second Woman and Second Witch. A native of Guyana, the soprano has sung leading roles with other companies of note, including Hawaii Opera Theatre, Internationale Opera Producties, Opera Naples, Union Avenue Opera, Natchez Opera Festival, Pacific Opera Project, West Edge Opera, Festival Opera, Music in the Mountains, Mendocino Music Festival, and West Bay Opera, to name a few. Roles in Ms. Sulker’s repertoire include Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Die Königin der Nacht (Die Zauberflöte), Cunegonde (Candide), Olympia/Giulietta/Antonia (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), Adele (Die Fledermaus), Oscar (Un ballo in maschera), Adina (L’elisir d’amore), Musetta (La Bohème), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Zerlina and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Constanze (Abduction from the Seraglio), Frasquita and Micaëla (Carmen), Despina (Così fan tutte), Clara and Serena (Porgy and Bess), Belinda (Dido and Aeneas), Amore (Orfeo ed Euridice), Treemonisha (Treemonisha), Madame Silberklang (Der Schauspieldirektor), and Rosabella (The Most Happy Fella).
Ms. Sulker created the role of Corina in the world-premiere of David Conte’s opera Firebird Motel. The original cast recording can be found on the Arsis label. She has also sung in the American premieres of the following operas: Adam Gorb’s Anya17 in the role of Mila, Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness in the role of River Woman, Fabrizio Carlone’s Bonjour M. Gauguin as La Voix Intérieure, and Zenobia Powell Perry’s Tawawa House as Fanny. Her film credits include a soundtrack performance for the movie Mimic and an on-camera operatic appearance in the feature film Jackson, directed by J.F. Lawton.
In concert, Ms. Sulker has performed with American Bach Soloists, Eugene Symphony, Mark Morris Dance Group, Bear Valley Music Festival, Peninsula Symphony, Symphony Silicon Valley, Pacific Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Choral Society, Santa Clara Chorale, UC Davis Symphony Chorus & Orchestra, Masterworks Chorale, Avedis Chamber Music Series, and Redwood Symphony, to name a few. Highlights in her concert repertoire include Handel’s Messiah; the Bach cantatas Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, Coffee Cantata, and Non sa che sia dolore; Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate, Grand Mass in C minor, Requiem and Missa Brevis in G; Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Mass in B♭; Orff’s Carmina Burana; Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Virgine and Lamento della ninfa; Rutter’s Requiem; Schubert’s Mass in G; Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915; Bach’s Magnificat and Weihnachts-Oratorium; Fauré’s Requiem; Pergolesi’s Magnificat; and Mahler’s Symphonies No. 4 and No.8.
The soprano made her European concert debut with the Jugendsinfonieorchester Leipzig singing all the female roles in a concert version of Porgy and Bess and the soprano solos in Mendelssohn’s Psalm 42. These performances were held in Leipzig’s Gewandhaus and Prague’s Smetana Hall. She also performed a solo recital at Amsterdam’s Red Door Studio. As a special guest of the Ritz-Carlton in Osaka, Japan Ms. Sulker was invited back three times to perform a series of Christmas concerts.
Ms. Sulker earned scholarships to attend Bennington College and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in vocal performance. The soprano was awarded scholarships to attend both the Contemporary Opera and Song Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada and the OperaWorks Summer Intensive Program in Los Angeles. The soprano was also a resident artist for the Natchez Music Festival in Mississippi. A winner of career scholarships from the East Bay Opera League Vocal Competition, Ms. Sulker has also been a regional finalist with the NATS Competition and a finalist and award winner with the Irene Dalis Vocal Competition.
CARL BLAKE (piano) holds three degrees in piano performance: Bachelor of Music (magna cum laude) from Boston University, Master of Arts from San Jose State University, and Doctor of Musical Arts from Cornell University. He is the first recipient of the Marian Anderson Young Artist Award (presented by Ms. Anderson herself) that led to a year of private study with Pierre Sancan of the Paris Conservatory of Music.
Blake has performed in the United States, Russia, France, England, Central and South America, and the Caribbean Islands. To creditable acclaim, he performed several recitals at Carnegie Recital Hall and Wigmore Hall (London).
Blake has collaborated with well-known artists such as pianist Jean-Phillippe Collard, conductor Kent Nagano, cellist Kim Cook, baritone William Warfield, and sopranos Veronica Tyler and Mattiwilda Dobbs. The cello-piano duo toured Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Central America, and the Caribbean Islands under the auspices of the Artistic Ambassador Program of the United States Information Agency for nine weeks in 1996. Dr. Blake has received two Fulbright Senior Scholar Awards to lecture, teach, and perform at national music schools in Honduras, Central America.
Currently, he serves as music director of The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco.