Opera singer Marian Anderson became the first African-American to sing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City today (January 7, 1955).
The performance was a standing room only event, which took place on a frigid New York City winter evening.
Marian Anderson was part of the cast of a new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “A Masked Ball.”
For the first time in the Met’s history, it featured an African-American singer in a major role.
Marian Anderson was born on February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
She got involved in singing as a member of that Union Baptist Church in South Philadelphia.
After high school, she attempted to attend the Philadelphia Music Academy (the University of the Arts), but she was turned away, due to the racist policies of the institution.
She studied privately in Philadelphia, and in 1925 won a singing competition sponsored by the New York Philharmonic.
Despite a famed performance at Carnegie Hall, Marian Anderson moved to Europe in 1930, where she finally found fame.
By 1955, Marian Anderson achieved worldwide fame as a Contralto singer, in addition to being one of the United States’ highest-paid singers.
But the Grand Opera was “considered beyond the competence of Negro singers,” according to a historian name William Stott.
Although Marian Anderson’s character “Ulrica” in “A Masked Ball” was only featured in one scene, it was rousing a enough for the audience to give her five back-to-back standing ovations.
In the crowd were legendary figures like Ralph Bunchie, Langston Hughes, the Duchess of Windsor, and Helen Keller, who although blind and deaf, could “feel” Anderson’s music.