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Todd Duncan

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Biography

Robert Todd Duncan (February 12, 1903 – February 28, 1998) was an American baritone opera singer and actor.

Todd Duncan was born in Danville, Kentucky in 1903. He obtained his musical training at Butler University in Indianapolis with a B.A. in music followed by an M.A. from Columbia University Teachers College.
In 1933, Duncan debuted in Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana at the Mecca Temple in New York with the Aeolian Opera, a black opera company.

Duncan was George Gershwin’s personal choice as the first performer of the role of Porgy in Porgy and Bess in 1935 and played the role more than 1,800 times. He led the cast during the Washington run of Porgy and Bess at the National Theatre in 1936, to protest the theatre’s policy of segregation. Duncan stated that he “would never play in a theater which barred him from purchasing tickets to certain seats because of his race.” Eventually management would give into the demands and allow for the first integrated performance at National Theatre. Duncan was also the first performer for the role of Stephen Kumalo in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars.
Duncan taught voice at Howard University in Washington, D.C. for more than fifty years. While teaching at Howard, he continued touring as a soloist with pianists William Duncan Allen and George Malloy. He had a very successful career as a concert singer with over 2,000 performances in 56 countries. He retired from Howard and opened his own voice studio teaching privately and giving periodic recitals.

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