Kenneth Overton

Kenneth Overton

Kenneth Overton is lauded for blending his opulent baritone with magnetic, varied portrayals that seemingly “emanate from deep within body and soul.”  Kenneth Overton’s symphonious baritone voice has sent him around the globe, making him one of the most sought-after opera singers of his generation.  Kenneth is a 2020 GRAMMY AWARD WINNER for Best Choral Performance in the title role of Richard Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by JoAnn Falletta.

This season, Overton will lead in the Welsh National Opera’s new work Migrations, as well as in Porgy and Bess as Porgy, co-produced by Opera Carolina and North Carolina Opera. Concert engagements will include Handel’s Messiah at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel, a concert staging of Porgy and Bess with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra in Hamburg, the African American Music Festival at Pennsylvania State University, and concerts with the Howland Chamber Music Circle and Spartanburg Philharmonic.

 

Calendar

Event Date
Jun 17
The Ordering of Moses
Baritone Soloist
Harlem Chamber Players
New York, NY
Event Date
Jul 14
to
Jul 16
George Crumb’s American Songbook II
Soloist
Chamber Music Northwest
Portland, OR
Event Date
Sep 24
Concert: Scheherazade & Other Tales
Soloist
Spartanburg Philharmonic
Spartanburg, SC
Event Date
Oct 2
to
Nov 26
Migrations
Pero Jones/Chief Mistawasis
Welsh National Opera
Cardiff, Wales
Oct 21
to
Oct 22
The Shoemaker
Welsh National Opera
Cardiff, Wales
Event Date
Dec 4
Handel's Messiah
Soloist
Rockefeller Chapel (UoC)
Chicago, IL
Event Date
Jan 22
to
Jan 28
Porgy and Bess
Porgy
Opera Carolina
Charlotte, NC
Event Date
Feb 3
African American Music Festival
Soloist
Pennsylvania State University
Centre County, PA
Event Date
Mar 26
Concert
Soloist
Howland Chamber Music Centre
Beacon, NC
Event Date
Apr 14
to
Apr 16
Porgy & Bess
Porgy
North Carolina Opera
Raleigh, NC
Event Date
May 26
to
May 28
Porgy and Bess
Jake/Frazier
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra Hamburg
Hamburg, Germany

Artist Bio

Kenneth Overton is lauded for blending his opulent baritone with magnetic, varied portrayals that seemingly “emanate from deep within body and soul.”  Kenneth Overton’s symphonious baritone voice has sent him around the globe, making him one of the most sought-after opera singers of his generation.  Kenneth is a 2020 GRAMMY AWARD WINNER for Best Choral Performance in the title role of Richard Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by JoAnn Falletta.

This season, Overton will lead in the Welsh National Opera’s new work Migrations, as well as in Porgy and Bess as Porgy, co-produced by Opera Carolina and North Carolina Opera. Concert engagements will include Handel’s Messiah at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel, a concert staging of Porgy and Bess with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra in Hamburg, the African American Music Festival at Pennsylvania State University, and concerts with the Howland Chamber Music Circle and Spartanburg Philharmonic.

Last season’s operatic engagements included Kenneth’s Metropolitan Opera debut in the fall of 2021 as Lawyer Frazier in Porgy and Bess, a reprisal of the role of Ralph Abernathy in I Dream with Opera Carolina and Charlottesville Opera, The Homecoming Soldier in Zach Redler’s The Falling and The Rising with Opera Carolina, Germont in La Traviata for Fort Worth Opera, and Boston Lyric Opera’s production of Terence Blanchard’s Champion. In concert, Overton appeared with the National Philharmonic as a soloist for Mozart’s Requiem and Hailstork’s A Knee on the Neck, Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses with the Harlem Chamber Players, Handel’s Messiah with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Mozart’s Requiem with the National Chorale, as a soloist in “Deep River: Black Currents in Classical Music” with the American Composer’s Orchestra, a solo recital with The Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University, George Crumb’s American Songbook II with Chamber Music Northwest, and the premiere of Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem with the Oregon Symphony – with subsequent performances at the Kennedy Center with Choral Arts Society of Washington.

Most recently, Overton appeared in On Site Opera’s The Road We Came, an immersive and site-specific experience that explores the composers, musicians and places that define the rich Black history of New York City through a series of self-guided, musical walking tours.  He also sang the title role in Porgy and Bess for New Orleans Opera as well as A Night of Black Excellence with Fort Worth Opera and this past summer, Nadia Boulanger and Her World with the Bard Music Festival.

Previously, Kenneth made a triumphant role début of Friar Lawrence in Roméo et Juliette with Oregon Bach Festival; performing on the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death and conducted by the irreverent John Nelson, critics deemed the production “too beautiful, too musical” not tobe performed. Whilst at the festival, he also performed Mozart’s Requiem and Bach’s Magnificat.  In addition, he returned to San Francisco Opera for Billy Budd, performed in Porgy and Bess with Harrisburg Symphony, and performed in Union Avenue Opera’s 25th Anniversary Gala. In concert, he appeared at Carnegie Hall for Angela Rice’s Thy Will be Done and Vaughan Williams’ Dona nobis pacem, Mechem’s Songs of the Slave with Symphony of the Mountains, and with the Oregon Bach Festival for Richard Danielpour’s Passion of Yeshua which he also sang at UCLA’s Royce Hall as well as the Buffalo Philharmonic which was recorded for release on Naxos.

Mr. Overton is quickly becoming a champion of new works, returning to San Francisco Opera in “the most eagerly anticipated new opera of the season”; the World Premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West.  He also created the role of Ralph Abernathy in the World Premiere of the Rhythm & Blues opera I Dream by Douglas Tappin for Opera Grand Rapids, Toledo Opera, and Opera Carolina and performed the role of Stephen Kumalo in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars for Union Avenue Opera.  

Previous engagements also include Amonasro in Aida with Boheme Opera, a return to The New York City Opera performing the role of Jake Wallace in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly for Opera Idaho.  Additionally, Kenneth thrived in his Hungarian debut as the title role in Porgy and Bess in the Margaret Island Open Air Theatre’s production where he was heralded as one of “America’s most renowned Opera singers.” 

Alongside the New England Symphonic Ensemble, Kenneth took Carnegie Hall by storm in his soloist performances of Faure’s Requiem and the New York Premier of Michael John Trotta’s Seven Last Words of Christ with Mid America Productions. In addition, he returned to David Geffen Hall with the National Chorale in Mozart’s Requiem, and Vesperae Solennes de Confessore. He also starred in the significant World Premiere of Upon This Handful of Earth by Norwegian Composer Gisle Kverndokk, commissioned by the New York Opera Society. 

Kenneth’s ever blossoming career has allowed him to perform with some of the most prestigious Opera Companies and Orchestral Organizations in the world, highlights include his 2017 New York Philharmonic debut, and his San Francisco Opera debut as Lawyer Frazier in Porgy and Bess and a return to the company as Sid in La Fanciulla del West.  As a leading baritone, Kenneth has performed with Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, Opera Memphis, Sacramento Opera, Nashville Opera, Connecticut Opera, Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, Houston Ebony Opera Guild, Toledo Opera, Opera Delaware, Shreveport Opera, Opera Tampa, and Opera Carolina. Kenneth has been seen as Germont in La Traviata, Michele in Il Tabarro, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Marcello and Schaunard in La bohème, Ping in Turandot, Angelotti in Tosca, as well as Bello and Sid in La Fanciulla del West

Kenneth’s interpretation of the title role in Porgy and Bess has been proclaimed as “breathtaking.” He has performed the role over 100 times at international houses such as the Deutsche Oper Berlin in the critically-acclaimed production from South Africa’s Cape Town Opera, Palacio Bellas Artes in Mexico City, L’Opera Montreal, and he triumphed in Tony Award Winning Director John Doyle’s new staging for The Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen and debuted the role at various houses on tour throughout the British Isles. Kenneth has also portrayed Porgy in concert with the Traverse City Symphony, the Springfield Symphony, the National Chorale at David Geffen Hall – Lincoln Center, the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, the Paducah Symphony, the Richmond Symphony, the Sopot Festival in Poland, and the Klangvokal Festival in Dortmund. Kenneth has also sung Porgy on stage in the USA at Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh, Opera Memphis, Opera Carolina, and the Lexington Opera Society. 

Kenneth is widely recognized for his concert work, having performed as soloist with Phoenix Symphony, Norwalk Symphony, National Chorale, Harlem Chamber Players, Duluth Superior Symphony, Tacoma Symphony, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Yonkers Philharmonic, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Oratorio Society of New Jersey, Lexington Philharmonic, Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, Mineola Choral Society, Summit Chorale Festival, New York City Opera’s Schomberg Series, Sarasota Symphony, and San Antonio Symphony.  His concert and oratorio repertoire includes Faure’s Requiem, Durufle’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Verdi’s Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem, Coronation Mass and Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, Christmas Oratorio (Saint-Saëns), Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Vaughn Williams’ A Sea Symphony, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Schubert’s Mass in A-flat, Dvorak’s Te Deum, Bruckner’s Te Deum, Haydn’s Creation and Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs. Kenneth is also regularly featured with the American Spiritual Ensemble as a soloist for annual performances in the USA and abroad.

Kenneth’s versatile acting and singing abilities have allowed him to continue his passion for musical theater and new works. He made his Operatic Broadway debut in Baz Luhrmann’s La Boheme. He triumphantly portrayed Joe in Showboat and Judge Turpin in Sweeny Todd for the Pensacola Opera, and excelled in the diverse contemporary works, Corps of Discovery by Michael Ching and The Widow’s Lantern by David Ott. 

Pride and tradition portray the motif of Kenneth’s debut solo album Been In De Storm So Long:  Songs My Fathers Taught Me, his homage to the spiritual tradition that has been formative in his artistic life. Pianist Kevin Miller and Kenneth’s collaboration embody the historic Spirituals from our past and contemporary art songs by African American Composers, giving them a new life of their own. Amidst performing, Kenneth serves as co-founder and artistic director of Opera Noire of New York, a performing arts organization created to empower African-American artists to reach their full creative potential in a creative supportive environment.  He hails from Philadelphia.

Updated September 1, 2022

Audio Samples

Audio Sample Mendelssohn’s Elijah
Audio Sample Vaughn William's A Sea Symphony

Video

“Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child” arr George Crumb

“I loves you Porgy” from Porgy and Bess

“Bess’ you is my woman now” from Porgy and Bess

“Sence you went away”

Except from “Dream Variation” by Bonds

“Peculiar Grace” from Fire Shut Up in my Bones”

“To my Little Son” by Price

“Grief” by Still

“Night Song” by Adams

“Invitation to Love” by Hailstork

“There’s A Man Goin’ Roun’ Takin’ Names”

Press

"...the ability to take your breath away and reduce you to tears..." – St. Louis Limelight

Lost In The Stars – “In an emotional powder-keg of a role, Kenneth Overton soars with his potent baritone and poignant renditions of every number. He pulls everyone’s heartstrings tight and has the ability to take your breath away and reduce you to tears. His showstopping ‘Lost in the Stars’ delivery to close Act I is haunting and will remain one of my favorite and best moments of Union Avenue Opera’s 24th season.”

"...prepare for chills..." – Pensacola News Journal

Showboat – “In my mind, any discussion of Showboat starts with its most famous song – the magnificent ‘Ol Man River.’ It is the absolute jewel in the crown within Kern’s score, and when placed in the hands of a singer who can master its challenges, it is an automatic highlight. In baritone Kenneth Overton, Pensacola Opera has a singer who more than masters ‘Ol Man River.’ Overton who plays Joe, absolutely soars, and prepare for chills when the male chorus adds their voices to the mix.”

"...sang with great assurance and strength..." – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Porgy and Bess – “Kenneth Overton was fabulous in the title role. He sang with great assurance and strength, and his acting was breathtaking.”

"...soulfull lightness of his voice..." – Duluth News Tribune

Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony – “Baritone Kenneth Overton simply melted away all fear of the sea ‘on the beach at night alone.’ Throughout the work he was able to use the fullness of his voice, as well as the soulful lightness of his high notes in nostalgic moments.”

"...a ringing, resonant baritone..." – Modesto Bee

Porgy and Bess – “For me, however, the truly exceptional performance of this production came from Kenneth Overton as Porgy. His sheer vocal power — a ringing, resonant baritone that seemed to emanate from deep within body and soul — could have carried the whole show on its own. But beyond this, he seemed to possess an intuitive sense of the character that not only projected itself compellingly to the audience, but enriched and enhanced the other roles as well.”