To the 125th anniversary of Mariam Anderson - the endower of a brilliant voice

“The contralto of the African-American Marian Anderson fascinates with a number of unique features. Along with the amazing vocal mastery and brilliant musicality, there is an absolutely extraordinary inner nobility, penetration, the finest intonation and timbre richness in her voice. Its detachment from worldly fuss and the complete absence of narcissism create the impression of some kind of divine grace. The inner freedom and authenticity of articulation are also impressing. Whether you listen to Anderson's works of Bach and Handel or Afro-American spirituals, a magical meditative state immediately arises, which has no analogues ... "

In 1935, at the initiative of Arthur Rubinstein, a significant meeting between Marian Anderson and the great impresario, a native of Russia, Sol Hurok takes place in Paris. He managed to change the mentality of the Americans, using the Lincoln Memorial for this. On April 9, 1939, 75,000 people at the marble steps of the Memorial listened to the singing of the great singer, who has since become a symbol of the struggle for racial equality. Since then, US Presidents Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and later Kennedy have been honored to host Marian Anderson. The concert career of the artist was brilliant, the singer's repertoire included vocal, instrumental and chamber pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Friedrich Händel, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Gustav Mahler, Jean Sibelius, compositions by George Gershwin and many others.

Only once in her entire career did the prominent Afro-American prima donna turn to the operatic genre. In 1955, she became the first black woman to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. This happened during the years of the directorship of the famous Rudolf Bing (1902-1997). Here is how he himself describes this significant fact: “The appearance of Mrs. Anderson, the first black singer in the history of the theater, the performer of the main parts, on the stage of the Metropolitan is one of those moments in my theatrical activity that I am most proud of. I wanted to do this from the first year of my stay at the Metropolitan, but it was in 1954 that we had the right part - Ulrika in “Un ballo in maschera” - requiring little action and therefore few rehearsals, which is important for an artist, who is extremely busy in concert activity, moreover it was not so important for this part that the singer's voice was no longer in its prime.

With all mentioned, her performance was possible only thanks to a lucky chance: at one of the receptions arranged by Sol Hurok for the ballet of the Sadler's Wells Theatre, I sat next to her. We immediately discussed the issue of her engagement, and everything was arranged within a few days. On October 9, 1954, The New York Times notifies readers of the signing of the theater contract with Anderson. On January 7, 1955, the historic debut of the great American diva took place in the main theater of the United States. A number of outstanding opera singers took part in the premiere: Richard Tucker (Richard), Zinka Milanov (Amelia), Leonard Warren (Renato), Roberta Peters (Oscar). Behind the conductor's stand was one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, Dimitri Mitropoulos.

Musical selection* dedicated to the 125th birth anniversary of Mariam Anderson - a great singer, owner of the unique contralto, an African-American woman who has become a symbol of the struggle for racial equality is posted in the museum Music Library.

* The tracks in the music selection were digitized from music records stored in the Sound Library of the museum Collection

Based on materials https://www.belcanto.ru/anderson.html