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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.

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biography

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 two productions for the Welsh National Opera’s new season. The new work Migrations, and in the world premiere of The Shoemaker. Overton will reprise his most celebrated role 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, a solo recital for the African American Music Festival at Pennsylvania State University, a solo recital with the Howland Chamber Music Circle, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen for the Spartanburg Philharmonic, and a return to The Kennedy Center with The Washington Chorus as the soloist for Duruflé's Requiem and Undine Smith Moore’s Scenes from the Life of a Martyr.

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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 to be 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.

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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, Duruflé'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. He hails from Philadelphia.