About the Artist

Full length portrait of Cherry Duke. Photo credit Lisa HancockWith a performance career spanning concert, opera, new music, theater, and more, Cherry Duke’s diverse body of work includes creating the role of The Captain in David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s landmark opera Dog Days, touring with the American Spiritual Ensemble, 60+ operatic roles, 30+ oratorio/concert roles, and numerous premieres and workshops of new works. Currently, Cherry Duke is a principal artist and Artistic Associate with El Paso Opera, a regular soloist with the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, and teaches voice and directs the opera program at The University of Texas at El Paso.

Opera Singer

On the opera stage, Cherry Duke has performed the title roles in CarmenHansel and Gretel, and L’italiana in Algeri, as well as critically-acclaimed performances of the Captain in Dog Days, Nerone in The Coronation of Poppea, and Jo March in Little Women. She has performed Siébel in Faust and Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro with Winter Opera Saint Louis; the Third Lady in The Magic Flute with El Paso Opera, Opera Tampa, and Prism Opera; and Isabella in L’italiana in Algeri with Opera Company of Middlebury. In 2015 she repeated her world premiere role of the Captain in Dog Days with Fort Worth Opera and Los Angeles Opera and in 2016 performed it at New York City’s Prototype Festival. She is featured on the original cast album, released in 2016. Internationally, Duke sang the role of Suzuki in Madama Butterfly in Lima, Peru; Lady Olive in Dellaira’s The Secret Agent in Avignon, France, and Szeged, Hungary; and covered Suzuki and Jo March in NYCO’s 2005 tour of Japan. Duke was a principal artist with New York City Opera from 1999 until 2010.

Since 2016, Cherry Duke has been a regular guest artist with El Paso Opera. With EPO, she performed the role of Tisbe in Garnett Bruce’s old-school Hollywood re-telling of La Cenerentola; Hansel in Hansel and Gretel in an active train station; Third Lady in The Magic Flute in a Masonic temple; and Julia Child in Lee Hoiby’s mono-opera Bon Appétit, filmed and broadcast in early 2021 alongside an interview between Cherry Duke and Child (played by Duke).

New Music, Theater, and Cross-Over

Duke’s new music appearances are varied and numerous. The premiere and subsequent tours of Little and Vavrek’s 2012 opera Dog Days led to the original cast album, released in 2016. With the Center for Contemporary Opera, she performed in the New York and European premieres of Dellaria’s The Secret Agent, in New York, France, and Hungary. Duke created the role of Sally Rogers in Paul Salerni’s The Life and Love of Joe Coogan, based on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show in 2010. Duke also workshopped works by Matt Aucoin (Crossing), Gerald Cohen (Steal A Pencil for Me), and Diedre Murray (Patient Zero, The Blackamoor Angel).

Duke as Dolly Levi, 2019

Cherry Duke has performed frequently in cross-over and music-theater works, including scenes from Scott Davenport Richards’ jazz opera Charlie Crosses the Nation; Don Davis’s salsa-inspired Rio de Sangre; and Gordon Beeferman’s post-modern Ratland, all with New York City Opera’s VOX Festival of New Works. At Bard’s SummerScape Festival and Joe’s Pub she was a featured singer-actor in Carl Hancock Rux and Diedre Murray’s ”cabaret opera,” The Blackamoor Angel. Under the direction of MacArthur Fellowship winner Yuval Sharon, Duke played a singer in a theatrical mashup, Celebrate Good Times: Macbeth. She portrayed Mrs. Segstrom in Indiana Repertory Theatre’s A Little Night Music, alongside opera and jazz legend Sylvia McNair. In 2018, she was the headliner for “Amor,” a cabaret/recital at the Philanthropy Theater in El Paso. In 2019, Cherry portrayed Dolly Levi to rave reviews in UTEP Dinner Theatre’s landmark production of Hello, Dolly!

Oratorio and Orchestral Soloist

Cherry Duke has performed at major venues such as Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall. As an orchestral concert soloist, She was a featured soloist in such repertoire as Bach’s B-Minor Mass, St. John and St. Matthew Passions and Weihnachts-Oratorium; Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mass in C and Choral Fantasy; Duruflé’s Requiem; Falla’s El Amor Brujo; Handel’s Messiah, several Haydn masses; Mendelssohn’s Elijah; Mozart’s Vesperes Solennes, and Grand Mass in C; Rossini’s Stabat Mater; Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio; Vaughan-Williams’ Hodie and Magnificat; and Respighi’s Lauda per la Nativitá del Signore. She debuted in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 under the baton of Gerard Schwarz with Symphoria in Syracuse, New York, and reprised this role in 2016 with the El Paso Symphony Orchestra. In the fall of 2020, during the pandemic, Duke performed the vocal solo in Mahler’s Fourth Symphony under the baton of Dr. James Welsch in El Paso.

Duke in concert, May 2018

In addition to oratorio and symphonic appearances, Duke has frequently performed as a soloist in opera concerts with regional orchestras (Missouri Symphony Society, Johnstown Symphony Orchestra), including El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s February 2020 “A Night at the Met” concert featuring Metropolitan Opera tenor Paul Groves. Other special projects have included several presentations of A Spiritual Messiah and guest solo appearances with Roswell Symphony, UTEP Symphony, and others.

In 2021, Duke was the mezzo-soprano soloist in the world premiere of the El Paso Requiem by Jorge Martín (to honor those lost in the Walmart massacre of August 2019).

Recitalist

As a recitalist, Cherry Duke specializes in works by underrepresented composers. In 2016, Duke debuted her recital of works by female composers (Women’s Work) at Converse College and the University of Texas at El Paso and later was invited to perform the recital at the National Association of Teachers of Singing Texoma Regional Conference and Northeastern State University. Her program of French and Latin American Chamber music (Voyage) was featured at UTEP and the Texoma NATS Conference in 2020. She is currently preparing a recital featuring works of African American and African Diaspora composers (Life & Death).

Duke in concert with composer/pianist Jorge Martín, February 2019, in Middlebury, Vermont

Additionally, Duke has been a guest performer on recitals nationally and locally. In 2019, she was a guest artist at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury, Vermont, with composer Jorge Martín and tenor Brian Downen on a recital featuring Martín’s compositions.

Educator and Director

As a teaching artist, Duke toured with The Metropolitan Opera Guild, New York City Opera’s Education Outreach, Connecticut Opera Express, New Orleans MetroPelican Opera, and Virginia Opera’s SPECtrum Resident Artist Program.

In the fall of 2015, Cherry Duke joined the music faculty at the University of Texas at El Paso where she teaches voice and directs Opera UTEP. Cherry has served on the voice faculty of Bay View Music Festival, Innovative Music Camps, and Clear Creek Music Festival. She has given masterclasses at the University of Delaware, Indiana Wesleyan University, Bethany College, El Paso Community College, Converse College, Salisbury University, Northeastern University, and the University of Alabama. Duke is a frequent guest speaker on career-related topics at universities nationwide. She also has created and presented extensive programs on the business of music through her company, YourType Arts Partners.

As director and producer of Opera UTEP, Duke has presented a sold-out dinner theater production of Michael Ching’s Speed Dating Tonight with a live band at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing; Puccini’s Sister Angelica (paired with Act 2 of La bohème); a review of the music of Kurt Weill, paired with scenes and poetry from his literary collaborators; among others. In April 2020, Duke responded to the pandemic by converting the Spring Opera Showcase into a highly successful online event, featuring recorded virtual performances and live narration and commentary from the UTEP students. While others around the country were canceling, Duke was innovating.

Cherry Duke in her home music studio

As part of her mission of service to her students at UTEP, a Hispanic Serving Institution, Duke is reviving the El Paso tradition of zarzuela (loosely translated as Spanish operetta). She has directed many programs of scenes featuring works from the traditional opera repertoire alongside pieces from the vast canon of zarzuela. In April 2022, she produced and directed Federico Moreno Torroba’s masterwork, Luisa Fernanda, featuring the UTEP Symphony Orchestra, Concert Chorale, Dance Team, and soloists from Opera UTEP, the voice faculty, and UTEP voice alumni. Additionally, in January 2022, she presented “The Case for Zarzuela in Collegiate Opera and Voice Programs” at the National Opera Association annual conference, in collaboration with Dr. Paulina Villareal.

Background

A Texas native, Duke graduated summa cum laude from Texas Woman’s University, where she studied with renowned mezzo-soprano and pedagogue Joan Wall. She earned an Artist’s Diploma (graduate degree) in Opera Performance from The Hartt School at the University of Hartford. She was an apprentice artist at Opera North, Chautauqua Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera. Duke’s early training programs included the Israel Vocal Arts Institute and the Promised Valley Playhouse Summer Opera Workshop. Her principal voice teachers have included Trish McCaffrey, Elaine Bonazzi, Ruth Golden, Shirley Love, David Jones, and Judith Natalucci. Cherry Duke is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota, Opera America, National Opera Association, National Association of Teachers of Singing, the American Guild of Musical Artists, and Actor’s Equity Association.


Upcoming Engagements

El Paso Opera’s FRIDA  

Date City Venue
08/27/22 El Paso, TX Abraham Chavez Theatre
Time: 7:30pm. Admission: $39-$55. Age restrictions: Parental Advisory. Box office: 915-581-5534. Address: El Paso Convention And Performing Art Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza. Cherry Duke is the Assistant Director for this production, produced by El Paso Opera. Click here for more information. Buy Tickets

LIFE & DEATH: Art songs by African American & African Diaspora composers  

Date City Venue
Tour: Recital: LIFE & DEATH: Art Songs by African American & African Diaspora Composers
09/18/22 El Paso, TX Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall
Time: 2:30pm. Admission: $8, $5, FREE. Address: 500 W University Ave.. Performed by Cherry Duke, mezzo-soprano & Esequiel Meza, Jr., piano. Click here for more information.
11/10/22 Canyon, Texas 2022 Texoma Regional Conference of the National Association of Teachers of Singing
Time: 2:30pm. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: West Texas A&M University. Specific date and time TBA. Cherry Duke and pianist Esequiel Meza, Jr. were selected to present a 50-minute version of their recital as part of the Artist Series at the Texoma NATS conference. Click here for more information.

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Original Cast Album

Original Cast Recording, available on VIA Records.

City Center Encores! Cast Album

The New Moon Album Cover

Cherry Duke teaches voice and opera at the University of Texas at El Paso