Vol. 111 (2021) 

 Five Questions for Soprano Rebecca L. Hargrove




Rebecca L. Hargrove made her Metropolitan Opera debut in the company of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, returned to the New York City Center for the gala production of Evita and starred in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado as Yum-Yum on tour with The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration with Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran.

The New York Times wrote that “Ms. Hargrove’s ravishing Acquanetta is both mistress and captive of the close-ups ...” in Acquanetta at Bard Summerscape, directed by Tony Award winner Daniel Fish.

Her television and film credits include appearances on House of Cards (Netflix), Random Acts of Flyness (HBO), Single Record (Revry), My Asian Auntie (Amazon), Interstate 15 (short) and The Fix (short).   


For these Five Questions, Stay Thirsty Magazine focused on her role as The Mother in the world premiere of Joseph C. Phillips, Jr.'s mono-opera entitled The Grey Land and her impressive career.


STAY THIRSTY: You are the only singer in Joseph C. Phillips, Jr.'s mono-operaThe Grey Land. What drew you to this project and how was it working with the composer who was also the conductor?


REBECCA L. HARGROVE: I was initially drawn to this project by the simple fact that classical singers rarely get to work with living composers, in addition to that, Black classical singers rarely get to work with living Black composers and tell our own stories. We collaborated closely in the weeks leading up to the premiere in 2018 to ensure that I understood the vision and message of the work. Joseph is one of the kindest artists I’ve ever worked with.

Rebecca L. Hargrove

STAY THIRSTY: The issue of race in America is very much on people's minds today. How has your experience as a Black woman in the arts been impacted by discrimination?


REBECCA L. HARGROVE: Thankfully, I’ve never had anyone outright call me names or tell me I didn't belong, but I’ve still faced microaggressions in the industry which have still made me feel “othered.” I’ve been in situations where lighting teams didn't know how to light me based on my complexion, make-up teams didn’t have the correct color make-up for my complexion, I’ve been asked to straighten my curls, been mistaken for the only other Black woman on a production, or just been the only Black woman (or person) in a production.



STAY THIRSTY: Phillips' mono-opera explores race, class and power in 21st century America. What message do you hope your work in this opera sends? Do you feel that your success inspires other young Black women to seek their own American Dream?


REBECCA L. HARGROVE: I hope this work enlightens audiences to this aspect of the Black experience through a musical lens. Police brutality is not new to our society, but for many years it has been a Black issue instead of a human issue. I hope that our audience can gain empathy and understanding through the loss of our children and do what they can to help change our society.

Rebecca L. Hargrove and Joseph C. Phillips, Jr. in the studio

If I hadn’t been exposed to trailblazing artists like Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, and Denyce Graves, I wouldn't have fathomed being an opera singer. I hope that one day some young Black singer can see me and know that she belongs here too. This is why representation matters.



STAY THIRSTY: You have performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and Madison Square Garden, to name just a few. Do you modify a performance depending on the venue and the size of the audience? Do the different acoustics make a difference?


REBECCA L. HARGROVE: Unlike some opera singers, I do sing other genres of music. I only modify my performance for the genre or style. At the Met, we don't need mics because that space was made to support acoustic sound. Also, the style of music performed at the Met requires using the resonators in our bodies. When I performed at Madison Square Garden, I was singing with Josh Groban and a live band. That space is not made for acoustic sound, so we were mic’d for sure. 



STAY THIRSTY: You have also appeared on television and in films for Netflix, HBO and Amazon. How do you make the mental shift from performing on a grand stage before a live audience to acting for the small screen? Is there a genre or a particular role that you would really like to try?


REBECCA L. HARGROVE: Acting for stage and film is different. When I first started training in film acting, my teacher said “Honey, you don't have to play to the back of the room here!” For on-camera work, a lot of the “acting” is in the eyes or in the small facial expressions. It needs to feel more real and grounded. When we’re doing an opera, a lot of the expression is in the body and the gestures are bigger. Thankfully, when I am filming, I can stay in a “film” state of mind and when I am doing a stage production, I can use the rehearsal period to reacclimate to my “stage” state of mind.


My dream is to be in a Marvel franchise as a superhero.




Rebecca L. Hargrove     

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.