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
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.
Where: Byham Theater
- Saturday, April 27, 2024 * 8:00 PM
- Tuesday, April 30, 2024 * 7:00 PM
- Friday, May 3, 2024 * 7:30 PM
- Sunday, May 5, 2024 * 3:00 PM
Mary Cardwell Dawson: Denyce Graves
Phoebe: Jazmine Olwalia*
Music Director: TBA
Stage Director: TBA
Set Designer: Peter J. Davison
Costume Designer: Jessica Jahn
Sound Designer: Andrew Harper
Wig and Make-up Designer: James Geier
Lighting Designer: TBA
Stage Manager: TBA
Head of Music: Glenn Lewis
Director of Musical Studies: Mark Trawka
Associate Coach/Pianist: James Lesniak
Assistant Stage Director: TBA
+ Pittsburgh Opera debut
* Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist
** Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist alumni
Production produced by The Glimmerglass Festival; commission and production sponsored by Robert L. Turner.
We want you to have the best experience possible at our performances!
Here are some details and resources to help. Also visit our Opera FAQs or our Accessibility page.
- Run time: TBD
- Understand Every Word: The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson is sung and spoken in English with supertitles projected above the stage
- Parking Downtown: get real-time parking availability
- Pre-Opera Talks before each performance
- Braille Programs available at the Byham Theater
- Large-Print Programs available at the Byham Theater
- Children must be ages 6 and up. Suggestions and tips for bringing children to the opera may be found at pittsburghopera.org/FAQ.
- All children must have a ticket. There is a 50% discount for kids and teens ages 6-18.