|Year of Birth:||1903|
|Year of Death:||1998|
Robert Todd Duncan (February 12, 1903 – February 28, 1998) was an American baritone opera singer and actor. One of the first African-Americans to sing with a major opera company, Duncan is also noted for appearing as Porgy in the premier production of Porgy and Bess (1935).
As Robert Todd Duncan, he was born 12 February 1903 in Danville, Kentucky to John and Lettie (Cooper) Duncan. They were married in Danville 1901, he being born in Danville, and she born in Frankfort. John was a garage owner and Lettie was a music teacher. He obtained his musical training at Butler University in Indianapolis with a B.A. in music followed by an M.A. from Columbia University Teachers College.
In 1933, Duncan debuted in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana at the Mecca Temple in New York with the Aeolian Opera, a black opera company.
Duncan was George Gershwin's personal choice as the first performer of the role of Porgy in Porgy and Bess in 1935 and played the role more than 1,800 times. He led the cast during the Washington run of Porgy and Bess at the National Theatre in 1936, to protest the theatre's policy of segregation. Duncan stated that he "would never play in a theater which barred him from purchasing tickets to certain seats because of his race." Eventually management would give into the demands and allow for the first integrated performance at National Theatre. Duncan was also the first performer for the role of Stephen Kumalo in Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars.