Amanda Ira Aldridge is a name that most people today are not familiar with- she was the world’s first black opera star! Read how this talented woman and her family fought against adversity to make it one of the finest arts.
Amanda Ira Aldridge born in London, in 1866, Amanda Ira Aldridge was the eldest child of Ida and Henry Ossawa Tanner. Her father was a college professor, and her mother was a schoolteacher. When Amanda was five years old, the family moved to Philadelphia, where she would grow up.
Aldridge began taking piano lessons when she was seven and showed extraordinary musical talent. She enrolled at the Philadelphia Musical Academy at sixteen, where she studied voice, piano, and theory. Two years later, she made her professional debut as a singer in an operetta titled The Chocolate Soldier.
While Amanda’s career began to take off, her personal life could have been more fortunate. In 1886, her father passed away from pneumonia. This tragedy left the family struggling . To make ends meet, Amanda took on various jobs also to her singing engagements- working as a governess, a music teacher, and a dressmaker.
Despite her challenges, Amanda pursued her dream of becoming an opera singer. In 1890, she made history by becoming the first black woman to perform at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.
Amanda Ira Aldridge Early Life
Born in London in 1866 to Rachel and Daniel Aldridge, Amanda Ira Aldridge was the youngest of three daughters. Her parents were freeborn Black citizens; Rachel was from Philadelphia, and Daniel was from Virginia. Amanda’s grandfathers on both sides had enslaved. Growing up in Manhattan, Amanda enjoyed a relatively privileged childhood compared to most other Black Americans at the time. She attended a private girls’ school and was exposed to music and theatre from a young age.
While her exact birth date is unknown, it is believed that Amanda made her operatic debut at 18 in 1880. She sang the role of Amina in Vincenzo Bellini’s La sonnambula at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The reviews for her performance were mixed, with some reviewers praising her voice and others finding fault with her acting. Still, Amanda continued to pursue a career in opera, despite the challenges faced by Black women performers at the time.
In 1887, Amanda married Francis Xavier Roberts, an Englishman who worked as a stage manager and later became an actor. The couple had two sons: Laurence Olivier (who would become one of the world’s most celebrated actors) and Daniel Aldridge (an artist and student). , Francis died suddenly in 1891, leaving Amanda a widow at just 29 years old.
Amanda Ira Aldridge in Europe
From 1866 to 1867, Amanda Ira Aldridge toured Europe with the W.C. Johnson Minstrels. She performed in England, France, Italy, and Russia during this time. She was very well-received by audiences and critics alike, with many people lauding her for her powerful voice and stage presence. In England, she even performed for Queen Victoria.
During her time in Europe, Amanda Ira Aldridge continued to break down racial barriers. She was one of the first Black performers to ever sing at La Scala in Milan, Italy. She also became the first Black artist to perform at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia. Her success in Europe helped pave the way for future generations of Black performers who would follow in her footsteps.
How to Become the World’s First Black Opera Star
Amanda Ira Aldridge made history as the world’s first black opera star. She was born in London in 1866 to actor and playwright James A. Aldridge and his wife, Amanda Grafton Barnes-Aldridge. Her father was a white American, and her mother was of African and Native American descent.
Aldridge began her career as a child actress, performing in her father’s plays. She later studied voice with renowned singing teacher Giovanni Mario Costa and made her operatic debut in 1883 at 17. She quickly rose to fame, performing throughout Europe and the United States.
In 1896, Aldridge made history again when she became the first black artist to perform at London’s prestigious Royal Opera House. She continued to perform there for 14 seasons.
Aldridge retired from performing in 1913 but remained active in music, teaching, and working as a vocal coach. She also wrote my Life Against Odds (1937) autobiography, which detailed her struggles as a black artist in a predominantly white field.
Aldridge died in 1956 at the age of 89. She is remembered as a groundbreaking artist who overcame tremendous obstacles to achieve success.
A Breakthrough for Black Opera Stars
In the early 1800s, opera was one of the Western world’s most popular forms of entertainment. But for black performers, opportunities were few and far between. That all changed with the rise of Amanda Aldridge, who became one of the first black opera stars in history.
, Amanda studied piano and voice at a young age. She quickly showed talent and promise, performing her first professional concert at 13. After moving to England with her family in 1884, Amanda continued to pursue her passion for music, studying at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music.
It was here that Amanda began to make her mark on the opera world. In 1889, she made her stage debut as Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust – becoming the first black woman to perform a leading role in an opera at Covent Garden. She would have a successful career performing all over Europe, including at La Scala in Milan and the Paris Opera.
Amanda retired from singing in 1913 but continued to work as a composer and teacher. She was an important figure in promoting racial equality in the arts, and her legacy continues to inspire black performers today.
The life and legacy of Amanda Ira Aldridge should celebrated everyone, regardless of race. She was a world-renowned opera singer who broke barriers for black women everywhere. Her contribution to the world of music is immeasurable, and her impact on society is still felt today. If you ever have the opportunity to learn more about her or see her perform, do not hesitate to take it. You will moved her story and amazed by her talent.