The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson

Play by Sandra Seaton / Original music by Carlos Simon / Additional Music from Carmen by Georges Bizet / Text for original music by Sandra Seaton. Based on a true story. • April 27, 30 & May 3,5, 2024
Byham Theater

Pittsburgh’s unsung heroine who taught America to sing

In 1943, the National Negro Opera Company is set to perform on a floating barge to evade racially-segregated venues. But when bad weather threatens—pushing the performance to a segregated performance hall—visionary impressaria Mary Cardwell Dawson must find a way forward.

Mary Cardwell Dawson’s dream to provide access for African Americans to perform on stages for all audiences changed the future of opera. Having founded the longest-running, all-Black opera company here in Pittsburgh and organizing opera guilds in the country’s biggest cities, Mary Cardwell Dawson would go on to train hundreds of African American youth to sing.

Written by Mark Twain Award-winning playwright and librettist Sandra Seaton, The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson celebrates the remarkable founder of Pittsburgh’s historic and groundbreaking National Negro Opera Company. This play with music includes selections from Carmen as well as original music by award-winning Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Carlos Simon.

Commissioned by The Glimmerglass Festival

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