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Alumni Spotlight: Contemporary Opera and Spontaneous Success

Internationally acclaimed soprano Cassandra Black finds rare roles around the world.

With a list of opera’s most coveted soprano roles under her belt, Moores School of Music (MSM) alumna Cassandra Black finds success in contemporary opera, which led to her creation of the Snow Dragon role at Opera Siam in Bangkok.

Black, who earned a Bachelor of Music in 2005 and a Doctor of Musical Arts in 2008 at MSM, says her time at UH paved the way for her career, leading her from one unlikely character and connection to the next.  

“My peers, teachers, coaches and directors are all still part of my life,” Black says. “In fact, my entire story branches out from my tenure at the Moores School of Music. Any career in music is based on the relationships you foster along the way, and mine proudly traces its roots back to UH.”

Read more about Black’s career path in the Q&A below!

How has your musical career developed since graduating?
My career has taken me across the states and across the world! I’ve performed in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, China and throughout the United States. I just returned from my fifth trip to Thailand where I’ve done multiple operas, world premieres and symphonic concerts. I’ve performed over 20 of opera’s leading ladies and over 20 oratorios from coast to coast and beyond.

How has a career in the arts surprised you?
Life has been full of surprises. I certainly didn’t expect Thailand! Nothing has been what I expected. More often than not, when I expected a gig, it fell through, and when I expected nothing, something appeared. I think the key is being open to each surprise.    

What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of the work I’ve done in 20th and 21st century music. My highlights include portraying the extremely demanding role of The Dirty Duchess as well as Margaret of Argyll in Thomas Adès’ “Powder Her Face,” which I received international critical acclaim for. Traveling to Bangkok for the title role I created in Somtow Sutcharitkul’s “Snow Dragon” at Opera Siam was another honor.  

How has MSM pushed you as a performer?
The school taught me to hone many skills, chief among them being new music. New music has been such a big part of my career. Since my time at UH, I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of many world premieres, making me feel like I’m contributing to the art form. This stemmed from my time at MSM because 20th century music was part of the culture there. Five of the 12 operas I sang at MSM were 20th century operas. The skills I picked up at MSM have been my foundation.  

Are there any upcoming works we should listen out for?
The concerts I just did with the Siam Sinfonietta included a world premiere aria, the Three Fragments from “Wozzeck” and the final scene of “Salome.” I’m excited to return to Asia next year to do my first full “Salome” with Opera Siam! I’m also putting together collaborative recitals with pianist Chaden Yafi.