Opera singer from Norfolk wins Grammy, his first award performing professionally

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Posted at 1:59 PM, Aug 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-22 19:06:57-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Opera singer and Norfolk native Frederick Ballentine celebrated a major achievement in his professional opera-singing career – winning a Grammy.

"There's something very raw about opera that I don't think people who are non-opera singers understand,” Ballentine said. “The voice is so tied to your emotions."

Ballentine said he has sung opera since he was a teenager. He attended Lake Taylor High School and the Governor's School for the Arts, where he honed his talents.

“When that happens, that is like - first of all, you feel like you're ripping your vocal cords apart,” Ballentine said as he recited different musical notes. “But you also feel you're ripping your soul apart. It is so wild."

His career has taken him to opera theaters in Los Angeles, Washington and New York. Ballentine currently lives in Germany, where he performs professionally and received his first Grammy.

In a video, Ballentine can be seen unboxing his Grammy trophy and displaying it.

"This was for 'Best Opera Recording,” Ballentine explained. “This is for my participation as one of the leads, as one of the five major roles in Porgy and Bess, which we did at the Metropolitan Opera."

Ballentine said his success did not come easy. Ballentine said he got bullied as a child for liking opera. At the same time, he said he saw it as a badge of honor.

“I think they had a bit of respect for it as well,” Ballentine said. “You had to have some guts to walking around Lake Taylor High School, like, a black kid singing opera, you have to have some guts to be that person."

He originally said he wanted a career in law and would not have thought he would have ventured into singing opera professionally. Ballentine would do mock court trials with his family for fun.

Ballentine said he would like to perform with groups such as the Virginia Opera. For now, he said he will continue touring Germany and Europe.

"I'll be back in New York doing Porgy and Bess again with the Metropolitan Opera,” Ballentine said. “October through November."