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Thu, 02.12.1903

Robert Todd Duncan, an original

Todd Duncan

*On this date in 1903, Robert Todd Duncan was born in Danville, KY. He was a Black singer.

He was raised in Indianapolis, graduated from Butler University with a BA in music and received his MA from Columbia. Duncan was the first Porgy when George Gershwin's opera, Porgy and Bess opened on Broadway Oct. 10, 1935. Todd Duncan was already an established baritone and was teaching voice at Howard University when Gershwin heard of him.  Duncan also became the first Black singer to perform at the New York City Opera, making his debut as Tonio in Pagliacci in 1945. His performance as Stephen Kumalo in Weill’s Lost in the Stars (1949–50) won him the Donaldson and New York Drama Critics awards in 1950. Duncan also made two films, Syncopation (1942) and Unchained (1955).

After a 25-year career on Broadway, in films, and with more than 2,000 recitals in 56 countries, Duncan resumed his career as a teacher. There was a student downstairs waiting for a lesson when Duncan, 95, died upstairs at his home on Feb. 28, 1998.

The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York
ISBN 0-8160-3289-0

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