African-American soprano Sissieretta Jones: a belated appreciation

Posted on: August 17, 2018

“Sissieretta Jones forged an unconventional path to singing opera, becoming the first African-American woman to headline a concert on the main stage of Carnegie Hall, in 1893,” writes Michael Cooper in Wednesday’s (8/15) New York Times. “She sang at the White House … and, in a performance at Madison Square Garden, was conducted by the composer Antonín Dvořák. But … the nation’s major opera companies [were] segregated, denying her the chance to perform in fully staged operas…. Jones was perhaps the most famous of an early generation of African-American singers who shattered racial barriers in classical music…. She became the star of a touring company called the Black Patti Troubadours. All the performers were black, but the managers were white…. She retired from the stage in 1915…. When she died on June 24, 1933, relatively few took notice. But since then, people have worked to keep her memory alive.… Jessye Norman, the soprano, is developing a project exploring Jones’s life that will be presented at National Sawdust, the performance space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She hopes that projects like hers will spread Jones’s fame wider.” The article is part of “Overlooked No More,” a series about people whose deaths went unreported in the New York Times.

Posted August 17, 2018