Hoosier makes big splash on opera stage - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Black History Month

Hoosier makes big splash on opera stage

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Angela Brown Angela Brown

Angela Cain/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Angela Brown grew up singing in her grandfather's Indianapolis church. But today she performs on opera stages around the world in places like Paris, Spain and Africa.

In Celebration of Black History Month, WTHR Community Affairs introduces you to Angela Brown, a dynamic force with a personality as big as her voice.  

She's a powerhouse on stage and a critically-acclaimed opera star. She's also a powerhouse of personality up close.

"I didn't even get my break until....Lord, you all done read it in the paper and now it's getting ready to go down on DVD, am I getting ready to tell you my age? Okay...I've worked through it," she laughed.

Angela Brown playfully admits that she didn't get her first big break in the opera world until age 40 in the title role of Aida at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. 

"It's like a dream that I had that was finally coming true and I was like, for real?  Little Angela Brown from Indianapolis Indiana is singing at the Metropolitan Opera!"

She'll never forget the audience's standing ovation.

"I have never seen people come down the aisles of the Met and encircle the orchestra pit and throw flowers and cheer, and clap and cry. And that's all I could do was cry. I felt like I was at home in church. Let me calm down. Let me bring it back to Diva, just a little bit," she joked.

On a performance stage synonymous with divas, Angela Brown is refreshingly down-to-earth. With characteristic humor, she tells me how she has stayed humble.

"My Mama beat it in me," she laughed. "Freddie Mae and Walter Clyde. Mom and Dad. They were always telling me, you know it's all right to do good things, but never think you are better than anybody and always keep that sweet spirit, Angela."

That sweet spirit brings Angela back to Indianapolis to perform before hometown crowds with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. That spirit propels her to give back, coming back home to perform at a Girl Scouts Leadership Conference. She's a former Hoosier Girl Scout. 

"It's important to give back because so many people have helped you to get where you are," she said.

Angela had help from many people. She used to sing a "little jazz, did a little bit of blues."

But her college professors helped her find her voice. A respected Romanian voice coach at Indiana University heard her unique talent for classical music and told Angela: "The blood of Verdi courses through your veins. If you want to be the next Aretha Franklin, go. You need no more lessons, but if you want to be a Verdi soprano, you must WORK!!. And I was like, all right, lady."

Verdi was a composer whose music requires lots of versatility hitting big highs and lows, "and you know, having a sizeable voice."

That's a classical sound she first nurtured as a teenager at Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis.

"I was in all the choirs, did all the musicals, and I was always here.  I loved my school," said Brown.

It's a love she experiences once again on a visit to the high school's Crispus Attucks Museum.

"There I am in the French Club!" she said, pointing out a picture.

She flips through the pages of her life here, a yearbook filled with memories, and she knows the past prepared her for the present.

"You become more and more grateful and thankful that you had a faith base, that you had the parents that you had, that you had a community that you had around you that was encouraging you," she said.

Her future? Perhaps joining the wall of legends at the Crispus Attucks Museum. "I got a whole idea for a whole wall and mural. It's gonna be fabulous, child,  fabulous!" she joked.

Angela Brown continues to make a splash - preparing to star in another role at the New York Met in April and she's also working on a pet project:  a one-woman show portraying opera as hip and entertaining called "Opera from A Sistah's Point of View."  It has audiences raving.

Angela Brown - Learn more about her music, performances and DVDs

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