Opera Ebony is an African-American opera company, which have performed Mozart in Harlem to African-American Heritage concerts in Iceland. Gershwin in Moscow to Duke Ellington in the Caribbean. Benjamin Matthews, Sister M. Elise Sisson, SBS (1897–1982), and Wayne Sanders founded Opera Ebony in 1973. It has served as a professional platform for thousands of American artists, administrators and technical staff helping them to refine their talent and perfect their operatic craft. In New York City, Opera Ebony has performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the World Trade Center, the Beacon Theatre, Langston Hughes Theater(Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture) and the Manhattan Center. Additionally, for ten years the company presented grand opera at Philadelphia's Academy of Music. Since 1988, Opera Ebony's repertoire has performed in Brazil, Russia, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Canada, Switzerland and Martinique. The company has also partnered with several major international orchestras, opera companies and music festivals including the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the Finnish National Opera, the Estonia Philharmonic and the Savolinna Music Festival.
In 1998, Opera Ebony was selected as the only American opera company to perform for the opening of the Novaya Opera House in Moscow, Russia. During the winter of 2000, members of Opera Ebony appeared in performance and engaging conversation on the PBS GREAT PERFORMANCES series - "Aïda's Brothers and Sisters: Black Voices in Opera." For Black History Month 2001, the company joined with the Metropolitan Museum of Art to present the premiere workshop-performance of Harriet Tubman, a new opera/musical theater work by acclaimed American composer, Leo Edwards.
Notable world premieres and commissioned works include Frederick Douglass (Dorothy Rudd Moore, 1985); Sojourner Truth (Valerie Capers, 1986); The Outcast (Noa Ain, 1990); Oh Freedom (Lena McLin and Benjamin Matthews, 1990); Journin' (Benjamin Matthews1991); and The Meetin' (Pamela Baskin Watson, commissioned by Opera Ebony and the Jerome Foundation, 1998). Current projects include Harriet Tubman by Leo Edwards (commissioned by Opera Ebony and the Linda Gale Sampson Charitable Trust) and the remounting of The Meetin' for touring throughout North America.
Opera Ebony established the Benjamin Matthews Vocal Competition in 2015 in memory of founder, Benjamin Matthews. Among the notable competition winners who are performing throughout the US and Europe are Will Liverman, Brandie Sutton, Leah Edwards, Justin Austin, Helena Brown, Galeano Salas, Megan Picerno, Nelson Ebo and others.
Wayne Sanders, Founder
Wayne Sanders, music director of famed Opera Ebony is a coach and pianist; having collaborated and performed with Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman, Florence Quivar, and the late William Warfield and Benjamin Matthews. He has been consultant to the Houston Grand Opera, the Savonlinna Opera Festival (Finland), and Munich’s Münchener Biennale; provided musical direction for presentations ranging from an all-star tribute to Marian Anderson at Aaron Davis Hall (New York) to Porgy and Bess in Helsinki and Savonlinna, Moscow, and Tallinn. Co-founder of Opera Ebony, a historic African American opera company based in New York; participated in touring performances of Opera Ebony’s acclaimed Black Heritage concert series and served as its conductor over the course of its international run in Canada, Iceland, and Switzerland. Mr. Sanders has been responsible for the musical preparation of numerous premiers including Dorothy Rudd Moores Frederick Douglass, Perfect Harmony by Heikki Sarmanto, Harriet Tubman by Leo Edwards and most recently No Cowards in Our Band by Anthony Knight. Mr. Sanders is a member of the music faculty of Sarah Lawrence College.
Gregory Sheppard, Artistic Director
Gregory Sheppard was named Artistic Director of Opera Ebony in 2014. Mr. Sheppard holds degrees in voice performance from Syracuse University and New York University. He has been heard in opera, concert and recital throughout the United States and in Canada and Europe. He began his career nearly thirty years ago in his debut with Syracuse Opera and since that time has been heard with New York City Opera, Orlando Opera, Dayton Opera, Chattanooga Opera, Opera Memphis, Opera Ebony, Lake George Opera, Western Opera Theater, Central Coty Opera, Metropolitan Opera Education, Glimmerglass Opera and countless others. His orchestral appearances have included Orchestra of St. Luke's, Syracuse Symphony, New Haven Symphony, Sioux City Symphony, Denver Symphony, Western NY Chamber Orchestra, Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, Metro Chamber Orchestra, Little Orchestra Society, Bowdoin Festival Orchestra among others. Mr. Sheppard's honors and awards include a Metropolitan Opera National Council Award and study grant, Friday Music Clubs Award, Syracuse Opera Artist of the Year, Syracuse University Faculty Award, Jan Peerce Scholarship, and a Sullivan Foundation Award. European credits include Savonlinna Opera, Munchener Bienalle Festspiel, I Solisti di Roma. In 2019 Mr. Sheppard was appointed Artistic Director of the Long Lake Friends of Music Series.
Eldric Bashful, Administrative Director
Eldric Bashful assumed the role as Administrative Director of Opera Ebony as of early 2019. Mr. Bashful, an operatic tenor, holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Louisiana State University, Masters of Music from Arizona State University, and post-graduate work at University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Artistically he has been seen on the opera, concert and musical theater stages throughout North America and Europe. His professional singing career started in his home city and made his debut with New Orleans Opera, Nashville Opera, and other companies in Florida, New York and Kansas City, Phoenix and Las Vegas and a founding soloist of Opera Creole of New Orleans. He first appeared with Opera Ebony in the early 2000’s and have continued association since then. Additionally, he’s appeared in concert with Australian Soprano Angela Denning in Abbruzo and Cortona, Italy. He’s also performed in Germany, Spain, Switzerland, France and Austria. More recently Mr. Bashful appeared on Good Morning America and sang with international Soprano, Pretty Yende. Mr. Bashful also brings a depth of experience from the Corporate Financial Industry as a Limited Broker with American Century Investors, as well as Administrative positions with J.P. Morgan Family Wealth Management, CAI Cheuvreaux, a French Brokerage firm here in New York City and AG Edwards.