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A star is born: Brianna Robinson

Brianna Robinson joins the Boston Lyric Opera

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
A star is born: Brianna Robinson
Brianna Robinson joins the BLO’s Emerging Artists program this fall, and hopes to diversify the musical genre. photo: Courtesy Brianna Robinson

African American singer Brianna Robinson didn’t take a formal music lesson until she was in college. Now she’s joining the Boston Lyric Opera. Robinson earned a bachelor of music degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in Vocal Music Performance and Black Studies, and a Master of Music in Performance and Literature with a certificate in Arts Leadership from Eastman School of Music. After an impressive walk-in audition, the BLO’s artistic staff immediately signed Robinson up for the Emerging Artists  apprenticeship program, where she’ll receive training, vocal coaching and onstage performance opportunities.

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“I grew up with a lot of music in my family,” says Robinson. “My mother made music very important to us.” While in college at Ohio Wesleyan, Robinson went to see an ear, nose and throat doctor. In a twist of fate, the doctor was also a singer and put on a video of Leontyne Price singing “O Patria Mia” to distract Robinson while he diagnosed her. Price was the first African American singer to become a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera, and Robinson was completely entranced. Her love of opera was born.

Opera has traditionally been, and still is, a white-dominated space. For Robinson, an important part of her work is changing that perspective. “The most difficult part of it is not that anyone treats me badly because I’m a woman of color,” she says. “It’s that I’m the only person of color in the space.”

In addition to her work with BLO, Robinson will be assisting with the administration of the Boston Children’s Chorus. She hopes this will give her the opportunity to encourage students of color experiencing similar challenges. Her advice to young musicians is, “Keep going and be strong. You are worthy of being in this world.”

The Ohio native, who previously has worked in New York, is excited to be back on the East Coast. She will be performing in the BLO production of “The Handmaid’s Tale” in May and will be the go-to performer for BLO events throughout the season. She hopes her presence will make audiences aware of both the challenges people of color experience and the talent they have to offer.

“I think it’s important for people to know that these things happen for black singers, for Asian singers, for Hispanic singers, for anyone who’s not white,” Robinson says. “Opera is not just for one kind of person. Opera can be for everyone.”