African-American coloratura soprano Mattiwilda Dobbs died last Tuesday, December 8, at the age of 90. She was one of the first black singers to make a major international career in opera. Her voice was light and she gained praise for her refined vocal technique and lively interpretations.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, she studied with German soprano Lotte Leonard in New York City and later in Europe, notably with Pierre Bernac. After winning the International Music Competition in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1951, she made her professional operatic debut at the Holland Festival, as the Nightingale in Stravinsky’s The Nightingale, in 1952. Her name appeared in castings of the Glyndebourne Festival, La Scala, the Royal Opera House in London, the Paris Opéra, the Vienna State Opera… She made her Metropolitan Opera debut, as Gilda in Rigoletto, on November 9, 1956.

Dobbs retired from the stage in 1974, and began teaching at the University of Texas.

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