ANDERSON, Marian (1897-1993)
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African-American operatic contralto; one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th Century.
SP – Signed Photograph: 7″x9″ black and white silver-gelatin studio print by Teddy Piaz, Paris (so stamped). Very boldly signed by Mesdame Anderson in white India fountain pen ink. Minuscule crease in lower left margin, well away from signature – barely noticeable. Highly uncommon and desirable early studio portrait of the great contralto. Accompanied by a US Postal Commemorative stamp cover bearing a 24K plate of the stamp bearing her image.
Of Mme. Anderson, music critic Alan Blyth remarked: Her voice was a rich, vibrant contralto of intrinsic beauty. Much of her vocal career was spent performing in concert and recital in major music venues and with famous orchestras through the US and Europe between 1925-65. Although offered roles with many important European opera companies, Anderson declined as she had no training in acting. She preferred to perform in concert and recital only. She did, however, perform operatic arias wiithin her concerts. She made many recordings that reflected her broad performance repertoire.
Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the US. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused her permission to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. The incident placed Anderson in the spotlight of the international community on a level unusual for a classical musician. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her president-husband, Anderson performed a critically-acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. She sang before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions. Anderson continued to break barriers as a black artist, becoming the first black, American or otherwise, to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC in January 1955. Her performance as Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera was the only time she sang an opera role on stage.
Mme. Anderson worked for many years as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and as a goodwill ambassador for the US Department of State, giving concerts all over the world. She participated in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, singing at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Anderson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the National Medal of Arts in 1986, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.