Famous Arkansan: Robert McFerrin

Several well known people
have roots in Arkansas. The list runs the gamut from Johnny Cash to Jermain
Taylor. Check here every week as we highlight a new Famous Arkansan. This
week: Robert McFerrin

Zoie Clift


 

Born in Marianna on
March 19, 1921, Robert McFerrin Sr. ( 1921-2006) was the first African-American
male to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Los Angeles Times critic Albert
Goldberg described his voice as “a baritone of beautiful quality, even in
all registers, and with a top that partakes of something of a tenor’s ringing
brilliance.”
 
Father of Grammy Award-winning singer/musician Bobby
McFerrin, he made his New York City Opera debut as Popaloi in the premier of William Grant Still’s Haitian opera, Troubled Island. Still is also an
Arkansas native. McFerrin joined the New England Opera Company in 1950.
Three years later he won the Metropolitan Opera national auditions and became
the first African-American male to join the company. He made his debut in 1955
as Amonasro. His other roles at the house were Valentin (in Gounod’s Faust) and Rigoletto. He also sang
the role of Porgy (played onscreen by Sidney Poitier) in the soundtrack of the
1959 film of Gershwin’s Porgy and
Bess.
He toured internationally as a recitalist and was also active as a
teacher.

Posted in Travel Arkansas

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