JULY 11, 1925 - DECEMBER 8, 2015
Known for her pure, bell-like timbre, effervescent singing, impeccable musicianship, and lightning-fast runs, soprano Mattiwilda Dobbs is considered one of the greatest coloraturas of her generation. Her La Scala debut in 1953 as Elvira in Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri marked the first time an African American sang a lead role in that house. She sang a command performance before Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Opera House in 1954 and broke through the color barrier at San Francisco Opera a year later. The first African American female to sing leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera, Dobbs sang to critical acclaim on five continents. Having graduated as valedictorian from Spelman College, she studied with Lotte Lehmann, won numerous competitions and awards, and sang throughout Europe. Eventually, she joined the faculty of Howard University and taught privately in Washington, D.C. Throughout her career, Dobbs advocated for social justice and, refusing to sing for segregated audiences, did not sing in her own hometown until 1962.
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