Half a million for the National Negro Opera Company

Half a million for the National Negro Opera Company


norman lebrecht

April 14, 2021

The Mellon Foundation has come up with $500,000 to restore the National Negro Opera Company house in Pittsburgh.

The company was founded by Mary Cardwell Dawson in 1941 and functions until in the 1960s. Its premises have been heavily vandalised but Denyce Graves is leading the campaign to have it restored. “I am an African American woman opera singer, and it’s because of trailblazers like Mary Cardwell Dawson who paved the way … that allows us to have the careers that we do today,” she says. “We have to carry on where she left off.”


  • Rogerio says:

    I bet the first person of whiteness to sing with the NNOC will be remembered for ever.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    I wish everyone involved in this project the best of luck!

  • drummerman says:

    Norman, there is more than one “Mellon Foundation” in the US. The foundation here is the Richard King Mellon Foundation, not to be confused with the much larger Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which funds projects on a national scope.

  • sam says:

    “The National Negro Opera Company” is exactly the way the typical, average opera goer today would call a Black opera company.

    “I have a Negro friend, so well-spoken, such a credit to his race.”

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      It’s racist, whatever you call it. If that was a white-only company the sky would fall.

      • sam says:

        “If that was a white-only company…”

        Oh, you mean every single opera company since the 17th century?

        • Saxon says:

          Not every opera company was “white-only … since the 17th century”. Explicit and implicit bars on black performers is very much only something that happened in the US. And the US has changed in recent years, even if it is not perfect.

      • Jay says:

        Sue, the company was founded because at the time black singers were, for the most part, not engaged by mainstream opera companies due to discrimination and (in the south at least) Jim Crow laws. Surely you must be aware of this???

  • BigSir says:

    Bravo, can’t think of a better way to spend half a mill on the arts.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Isn’t that the house from “Psycho”?

  • John Porter says:

    They’re going to need a lot more than $500,000 to restore that house. I think it’s a great project and applaud Graves for her work with this. It would be great to see what the vision for the house will be. Will it be like the Peggy Glanville home in Australia or the Copland House in the US? I would give money for this if they have a gofundme account set up.