BERLIN – A Stephen Decatur High School alumna is celebrating a recent Grammy win as an ensemble member in the record-breaking production of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.”
On March 14, the conductor, singers, ensemble members and orchestra musicians with Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” – which performed to sell-out crowds each night during The Metropolitan Opera’s 2019-2020 season – won a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording.
As an ensemble member, Katerina Burton – a 2012 graduate of Stephen Decatur – said she is proud of the production’s cast, chorus and musicians for their work in making “Porgy and Bess” a success.
“I can’t say anything more than I’m so proud that I’ve had this experience,” she said in an interview last week. “I still feel incredibly blessed. Even though we are in this terrible time, it’s amazing to know good things can still happen.”
In 2019, Burton was hand-selected for the new production of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” at The Met. The show’s run was so successful, three performances were added to the schedule.
“It’s a record-breaking production, which I’m most proud of,” she said.
In addition to a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording, the album’s producer, David Frost, also won Producer of the Year in the Classical genre. While she expressed her appreciation for the recognition, Burton said she wasn’t necessarily shocked by the Grammy win.
“Everyone from the principals like Angel Blue and Eric Owens and Latonia Moore and Leah Hawkins down to my fellow chorus members and orchestra, I just remember that feeling of family,” she said of castmates. “Working with them, and what we were able to produce, was just magical. I’m not surprised that that ended up being translated onto recording.”
Burton said she and her fellow castmates are celebrating this year’s Grammy win, though notably with one less chorus member – Antoine Hodge – who died of COVID-19.
“All of us have had to grapple with that,” she said, “and it makes me incredibly sad he wasn’t here to be able to celebrate with us this incredible win.”
Prior to joining the production of “Porgy and Bess,” Burton completed an artist-in-resident program at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. And last March, after the production’s final show, she returned to St. Louis for yet another residency.
“The world kind of shut down on March 13,” she said, “and my residency subsequently, and rightfully, ended up getting cut short.”
Last August, however, Burton joined the Washington National Opera as a member of the Cafritz Young Artists program.
“Washington National Opera has been one of the companies closest to my heart, not just because it’s a great company but because it’s actually one of our closest major opera houses,” she said, noting that the first professional production she attended was at the Washington National Opera. “Now being able to be a part of this company, even during a difficult time, is just a huge, huge blessing.”
Burton said she is grateful for the opportunity, as many artists are currently struggling to find work.
“I got very lucky,” she said. “So many artists – singers, Broadway people, actors – are out of work right now because we can’t get back into the theaters. I find myself very privileged to still be able to do even a fraction of what we are used to doing.”
Though she doesn’t know what the future will bring, Burton said she hopes to use her talents to make a difference in the community. She also hopes to one day travel abroad.
“In spite of this incredible path I’ve been on, I’ve never been outside the country …,” she said. “How incredible would it be to not just sing in German, Italian, French, Spanish, all these languages, but see these countries and possibly be able to sing in their opera houses. That’s a huge goal for me.”
Burton encouraged everyone to support their local artists by reaching out to local arts organizations. She added people can also give to funds that support The Met’s chorus and orchestra members, who have not been paid since the start of the pandemic.
“I would be in the wrong if I didn’t mention how difficult it’s been for artists around the world …,” she said. “This community has just been devastated by the virus.”