Former Bronx resident to appear in opera film premiering next month on YouTube

Former Bronx resident Denisha Ballew, who is making her opera film debut in “Ophèlie,
Photo courtesy Elizabeth van Os

From the deep south of Kentucky, she made her way to the big city eight years ago and has been on Broadway and performed at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Today, Denisha Ballew, who lived in the Grand Concourse from 2017 to 2019, is set to make her opera film debut on May 1, in “Ophèlie,” which is based on the 1868 opera “Hamlet” by Ambroise Thomas.

The Pleiades Project is a NYC based company that has been creating online classical music content for the last five years and as part of their response to COVID-19 protocols, are releasing this short flick digitally as a YouTube premiere at 6 p.m.

It was an adjustment at first, but she looks forward to the release of her first movie.

“The camera and I had to become friends,” she told the Bronx Times. “Once I got comfortable, the magic started to happen.”

While she has been involved with singing and opera for about 20 years, she never imagined being on the silver screen. So when she was approached about the role she was taken aback. Furthermore, the character is usually a small white girl, which she is not.

“I’m an African American woman who is tall statuesque with a big voice,” she explained.

According to Ballew, she prefers singing on the stage, but this was worth it.

“I love it,” Ballew said. “I think it really captured the story.”

Her journey from Kentucky to the bright lights began when she joined her church choir as a child. Then around 14, became a member of her school choir, where her teacher, Mary Lois Kearns, was a major influence on her. She helped Ballew prepare for college auditions and taught her a lot.

“She noticed that my voice had potential,” she recalled.

She went to the University of Kentucky for undergrad and graduate school at the University of Tennessee but eventually made her way up north. Within her first year she was booking auditions. In fact, she landed a role in the opera “Porgy and Bess,” and traveled the country for 10 months.

“I didn’t necessarily think Broadway would be somewhere I would go, but I was happy to be part of it,” she remarked.

She has performed throughout the country and credits many people for her success, including the Harlem Opera Theater and Marjorie Stephens, a teacher from Tennessee who “helped her find her voice.”

While she lives in New Jersey, she shared that New York helped her become the singer she is.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given,” she said. “When you have a passion or desire to do something and you’re willing to put the work in, nothing is impossible.”

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