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Todd Duncan

所属教程:People in America 更新:03-02
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VOICE ONE:

I'm Shirley Griffith.

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VOICE TWO:

And I'm Rich Kleinfeldt with the VOA Special English program,PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today we tell the story of Todd Duncan -- aconcert singer and music teacher. He is the man who broke a majorcolor barrier for black singers of classical music.

((THEME))

VOICE ONE:

It is Nineteen-Forty-Five. The place is New York City. The NewYork City Opera Company just finished performing the Italian opera"Pagliacci."

Todd Duncan is on the stage. He had just become the first AfricanAmerican man to sing with this important American opera company. Noone was sure how he would be received. But the people in the theateroffered loud, warm approval of his performance.

Duncan did not sing a part written for a black man. Instead, heplayed a part traditionally sung by a white man. All the othersingers in the New York City Opera Company production were white.

His historic performance took place ten years before black singerMarian Anderson performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

VOICE TWO:

Todd Duncan opened doors for other black musicians when heappeared in "Pagliacci." Until that night, black singers ofclassical music had almost no chance of performing in major Americanopera houses and theaters. Many African American classical singersof today say they still do not have an equal chance to perform. ButTodd Duncan began a major change in classical musical performance inthe United States.

VOICE ONE:

Todd Duncan lived a very long life. He was ninety-five years oldwhen he died in March, Nineteen-Ninety-Eight in Washington, D.C. Hetaught singing until the end of his life.

Robert Todd Duncan was born in Nineteen-Oh-Three in the southerncity of Danville, Kentucky. His mother, Nettie Cooper Duncan, washis first music teacher.

As a young adult, he continued his music studies in Indianapolis,Indiana. He attended both a university and a special music collegeIn this middle western city.

VOICE TWO: In Nineteen-Thirty, he completed more musicaleducation at Columbia University in New York City. Then he moved toWashington. For fifteen years, he taught music at Howard Universityin Washington.

African Americans had gained worldwide fame for their work inpopular music -- especially for creating jazz. But not many blackmusicians were known for writing or performing classical music.

Teaching at Howard gave Duncan the chance to share his knowledgeof classical European music with a mainly black student population.He taught special ways to present the music. These special waysbecame known as the Duncan Technique.

Here Todd Duncan sings "O Tixo, Tixo, Help Me" from the opera"Lost in the Stars" composed by Kurt Weill.

((TAPE CUT ONE: "O TIXO, TIXO, HELP ME"))

VOICE ONE:

In addition to teaching, Duncan sang in several operas withperformers who all were black. But it seemed he always would beknown mainly as a concert artist. Duncan sang at least five-thousandconcerts in fifty countries during twenty-five years as a performer.

However, his life took a different turn in the middleNineteen-Thirties. At that time, the famous American music writerGeorge Gershwin was looking for someone to play a leading part inhis new work, "Porgy and Bess."

Gershwin had heard one-hundred baritones attempt the part. He didnot want any of them. Then, the music critic of the New York Timesnewspaper suggested Todd Duncan.

VOICE TWO:

Duncan almost decided not to try for the part. But he changed hismind. He sang a piece from an Italian opera for Gershwin. He hadsung only a few minutes when Gershwin offered him the part. ButDuncan was not sure that playing Porgy would be right for him.

Years later, he admitted that he had no idea that George Gershwinwas such a successful composer. And, he thought Gershwin wrote onlypopular music. Duncan almost always had sung classical works, bycomposers such as Brahms and Schumann.

Todd Duncan said he would have to hear "Porgy and Bess." He did.Then he accepted the part of Porgy. But he said he found itdifficult to perform because Porgy has a bad leg and cannot walk. Hespends most of the opera on his knees.

Duncan used his special methods to get enough breath to producebeautiful sound. He was able to do this even in the difficultpositions demanded by the part.

Here Todd Duncan sings "Porgy's Lament" from the Gershwin opera,"Porgy and Bess."

((TAPE CUT TWO: "PORGY'S LAMENT"))

VOICE ONE: Todd Duncan sang in the opening production of "Porgyand Bess" in Nineteen Thirty-Five. Then he appeared again as Porgyin Nineteen-Thirty-Seven and Nineteen-Forty-Two. He often commentedon the fact that he was best known for a part he played for onlythree years.

His fame as Porgy helped him get the part in "Pagliacci" with theNew York City Opera Company. He also sang other parts with the operacompany.

Earlier, you heard him sing a song from one of the operas heenjoyed most. The part was that of Stephen Khumalo in "Lost in theStars." It was a musical version of the famous novel about Africa,"Cry, the Beloved Country" by Alan Paton. American writer MaxwellAnderson wrote the words for the music by German composer KurtWeill.

Listen as Todd Duncan sings the title song from "Lost in theStars."

((TAPE CUT THREE: "LOST IN THE STARS"))

VOICE TWO:

Todd Duncan gained fame as an opera singer and concert artist.But his greatest love in music was teaching. When he stoppedteaching at Howard, he continued giving singing lessons in hisWashington home until the week before his death.

He taught hundreds of students over the years. Some musicians saythey always can recognize students of Todd Duncan. They say peoplehe taught demonstrate his special methods of singing.

VOICE ONE:

Donald Boothman is a singer and singing teacher from the easternstate of Massachusetts. He began studying with Todd Duncan in theNineteen-Fifties.

Boothman was twenty-two years old at the time. He was a member ofthe official singing group of the United States Air Force. He hadstudied music in college. But he studied with Duncan to improve hissinging.

Boothman continued weekly lessons with Duncan for thirteen years.After that, he would return to Duncan each time he accepted a newmusical project.

He says he considered Duncan his teacher for a lifetime. Manyother students say they felt that way, too.

VOICE TWO

Todd Duncan was proud of his students. He was proud of hisperformances of classical music. And, he was proud of being thefirst African-American to break the color barrier in a major operahouse.

He noted in a VO-A broadcast in Nineteen-Ninety that blacks aresinging in opera houses all over America. "I am happy," he said,"that I was the first one to open the door -- to let everyone knowwe could all do it."

((OUT ON TAPE CUT 4: "Oh, Lord, I'm on My Way" from the finale of"Porgy and Bess"))

VOICE ONE:

This Special English program was written by Jerilyn Watson andproduced by Lawan Davis. I'm Shirley Griffith.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Rich Kleinfeldt. Listen again next week for anotherPEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

((THEME))

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