When it came time for chorus members to audition for solos in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2019 production of “Porgy and Bess,” bass-baritone Antoine Hodge tried out for nearly every role available to him — not one was too obscure.
He saw the production as a milestone in his career, and he was gunning for a part and the exposure it would bring, said Rocky Sellers, a friend and fellow chorus member. Hodge ultimately won a sought-after solo in the prayerful scene referred to as “Oh, Doctor Jesus,” which Sellers said he sang with a tone that was commanding, yet sweet and buttery.
Hodge, a hardworking singer who performed with opera companies across the country, died Monday at AdventHealth Orlando hospital in Orlando, Florida, where he had been flown to receive specialized treatment. He was 38.
The cause was COVID-19, his sister Angela Jones said. “My brother had opera singers’ lungs,” she wrote in a Facebook post, “and COVID destroyed them.”
Over the past two decades, Hodge appeared with more than 15 professional companies, singing mostly small or featured roles with troupes like Charlottesville Opera in Virginia and Opéra Louisiane in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and performing in the chorus at the Met, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Atlanta Opera and Opera Colorado.
He sang at every opportunity, including Sundays in the professional choir at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.
“It never mattered to me whether I was a principal artist or an ensemble member,” Hodge wrote in a Facebook post on the opening night of “Porgy,” “as long as I got to do it.”
One of Hodge’s favorite roles was King Balthazar in Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” After he performed the role in a production at Opéra Louisiane in 2017, he was invited back the next two years.
“In the world of opera, you come across plenty of people who are out for themselves, but that was not Antoine,” said Leanne Clement, Opéra Louisiane’s general director. “He was a passionate performer who loved music and worked hard for everything that he had.”
In 2015, at Utah Festival Opera, Hodge made an impression in Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohème” as Colline, the philosopher who sings a farewell to the beloved coat he must sell to help a sick friend. Opera News called his performance “sonorous and touching.” The conductor, Barbara Day Turner, said she was struck by his ability to act and communicate with his voice. “He was the character,” she said.
Hodge was born Aug. 5, 1982, in Albany, Georgia. His mother, Mildred Wingfield, is a medical laboratory technician. His father, Larry Hodge, worked in management and is now retired. Along with his parents and Jones, he is survived by another sister, Amber Wingfield.
Antoine Hodge studied voice at Georgia State University and received a bachelor’s degree in music in 2006.
Between opera engagements, he often held side jobs on the New York theater scene, like working the door at Broadway shows, his roommate, Joshua Ster, said. He was a front-of-house staff member at the Hudson Theater, where he also provided security for stars including Adam Driver and Glenn Close.
His professional dream was to sing Giuseppe Verdi on the Met stage, Sellers said. But in the short term, Hodge looked forward to returning to the Met for the run of “Porgy” scheduled for the fall.
The Met plans to dedicate opening night to him.