Lamentation and Exaltation Performers
Edward Pleasant - baritone
Edward Pleasant, baritone, is recognized as one of the most versatile performers of his generation. Critically acclaimed in both opera, musical theater and recordings, he has distinguished himself as a gifted actor with brilliant comic timing and a luscious baritone voice. Pleasant champions the proliferation of the artistic contributions of early 20th century African-American writers, singers and composers, through live performances and recordings, propelling their works into the 21st century for the education and enjoyment of today's global audience. He appears on no less than a dozen recordings and operatic compilations.
Mr. Pleasant appears in the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra's recordings of Black Manhattan Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Both recordings for New World Records garnered praise for Pleasant's performances as being "marvelous" and "beautifully sung." He can also be heard in the definitive recording of Scott Joplin's Treemonisha, also for New World Records. This historic recording was designated a BBC Music Magazine 'Opera Choice' and Gramophone Magazine 'Editor's Choice' in the year of its release. His discography also includes a recording of The Seven Last Words of Christ for Gothic Records, Kurt Weill's The Flight of Lindbergh for Voices International, and a special 250th Anniversary edition of The Music of Mozart for the Madacy label. Pleasant is also the demonstration voice on the popular Karaoke Opera Series recordings of baritone arias. His latest project is a recording of the music of Irving Berlin for New World Records, set for release in January, 2016.
A native of Midland, Texas, Pleasant gained national attention when he appeared with the New York City Opera as Jake in Porgy and Bess, which included an Emmy-nominated Live from Lincoln Center telecast on PBS. This historic telecast marked the first time a live performance of the Gershwin masterpiece had ever been televised. He reprises this role both nationally and abroad. Mr. Pleasant returned to New York City Opera in other productions, including the premiere of Margaret Garner by Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison and their annual Vox Series showcases. Additional roles include Don Alfonso in Cosi fan tutee, Giuseppe Palmieri in The Gondoliers, Pish-Tush in The Mikado, Nardo in La Finta Giardiniera, Jacques in The New Moon, Zodzetrick in Joplin's Treemonisha, Harriet Tubman's father in a touring production of Freedom Train and Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime, the Musical. Recent career highlights include his being the first to realize the role of Sam Perry in a contemporary opera entitled Strange Fruit by Chandler Carter and Joan Ross Sorkin for Harlem School of the Arts, and his starring in a one man show about the life of Nat "King" Cole called Sincerely, Nat, which Pleasant also wrote and produced.
Pleasant performs on the world's most prestigious concert stages, including Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Carnegie Hall. He appeared as a soloist with the world-renowned Moses Hogan Chorale and he has sung in other prominent venues such as the Texas State Capitol and the White House. His numerous oratorio and orchestral credits include Bach's St. John Passion and Christmas Oratorio, Beethoven's Mass in C, Brahms' Requiem, Ellington's Sacred Selections, Handel's Messiah, Vaughan Williams' Five Mystical Songs and Robert Ray's Gospel Mass. He is in high demand as a narrator/storyteller performing the perennial children's favorites Peter and the Wolf, Carnival of the Animals, Tubby the Tuba, The Thrill of the Orchestra and most recently a new work, Uzu and Muzu from Kakaruzu.
In recent seasons, Mr. Pleasant has toured with the "Storytime Quartet with Eddie Pleasant" as narrator/storyteller. He is a co-founder and producer of this venture dedicated to classical music outreach. STQ is designed to introduce young audiences to great literature and the world's finest music. In February, he returns to the National Philharmonic in a concert version of Porgy and Bess at the Strathmore Arts Complex, North Bethesda, Maryland. He recently performed Antonin Dvorak's Hiawatha Melodrama in an innovative multimedia presentation. He eagerly anticipates the release of Black Manhattan III on the New World Records label due out in November.
Omar Najmi - tenor
Praised for his “clarion, luxuriously Italianate voice, tenor Omar Najmi enjoys a versatile career in opera and concert. A regular favorite at the Boston Lyric Opera, Omar has been featured in over fifteen of their productions including appearances as Nick in The Handmaid’s Tale, Vanya Kudrjas in Katya Kabanova, Beppe in Pagliacci, Goro in the Madama Butterfly process, Reverend Harrington in Lizzie Borden, and more. He recently made his European debut creating the title role in the world-premiere of Joseph Summer’s Hamlet with Bulgaria’s State Opera Ruse. Omar’s many other operatic appearances have included: Rodolfo in La Boheme and Tito in La Clemenza di Tito (Opera Steamboat), Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor (student matinée), and Joe in La Fanciulla del West (Opera Colorado), Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Arbace in Idomeneo, and Camille de Rossilon in The Merry Widow (Opera NEO), Bill in Flight, and Laurie in Little Women (Opera Fayetteville), El Gobernador in La Reina (American Lyric Theatre), Aufidio in Lucio Silla (Odyssey Opera), Sumeida in Sumeida’s Song (Opera Maine) and many more. He has additionally performed with Chautauqua Opera, Opera Saratoga, Annapolis Opera, Opera North, Opera Providence, MassOpera, and Boston Opera Collaborative.
Omar made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2018 as the tenor soloist in Mark Hayes’ Gloria . He has since returned as the tenor soloist in Dan Forrest’s Requiem for the Living, and as a featured soloist in Talents of the World Inc.’s Caruso Tribute Concert. His additional concert repertoire includes Bach’s Magnificat, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Missa Solemnis, Mass in C, and Choral Fantasy, Britten’s Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings, Handel’s Messiah, and Dixit Dominus, Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang, and Die Erste Walpurgisnacht, Mozart’s Requiem, Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, and Petite Messe Solennelle, and Verdi’s Requiem. Omar is the recipient of the Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Fellowship from Emmanuel Music, the Stephen Shrestinian Award from Boston Lyric Opera, and the Harold Norblom Award from Opera Colorado. He has been a prizewinner from the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions and the Talents of the World International Voice Competition.
Omar is also active as a composer - he premiered his first opera En la ardiente oscuridad in 2019, and his newest opera This is not that dawn received a workshop performance in 2022. During the 2020/2021 season, Omar was brought on as Boston Lyric Opera's first ever Emerging Composer. During his time with BLO, Omar composed and premiered his song cycle my name is Alondra, settings of poetry by Boston's Youth Poet Laureate, Alondra Bobadilla.
Omar holds a M.M. from Boston University, and a B.M. from Ithaca College.