Opera Music Theater International
OMTI Lifetime Achievement Award
Dobbs has sung in virtually every major concert hall in the United
States and abroad, with her sparkling voice thrilling audiences and
astounding critics. She is considered to be one of the great coloratura
sopranos of our time. With a career that has taken her to every corner
of the earth and onto stages of the great opera houses of the world,
including the Bolshoi Opera, the Vienna State Opera, Glyndebourne, the
Paris Opera, and the Stockholm Royal Opera, she often broke color
barriers. Her 1953 debut at La Scala as Elvira in Rossini's L'Italiana
in Algeri marked the first time a black artist ever sang in that famed
opera house. That same year her great success as Zorbinetta in Ariadne
auf Naxos at Glyndebourne resulted in her first major performance in New
York with the Little Orchestra Society. Dobbs desegregated the San
Francisco Opera Company two years later. The following year she became
the first black soprano to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House and the
first black female to sing regularly under contract with that house. Her
debut as Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto followed Marian Anderson's and
Robert McFerrin's barrier-breaking debuts by one year.
Born in Atlanta, Ms. Dobbs sang her first solo at age six, and began her
musical studies in piano one year later. She began her formal voice
training under the tutelage of Naomi Maise and Willis Laurence James at
Spelman College where she graduated valedictorian. Upon graduation Ms.
Dobbs traveled to New York to study with Lotte Leonard. While in New
York, she was granted a Marian Anderson Award as well as scholarships to
the Mannes Music School and to the Opera Workshop at the Berkshire Music
Center at Tanglewood. She also won a John Hay Whitney Fellowship and
used the grant to study French repertoire in Paris for two years with
Pierre Bernac, and to coach Spanish repertoire with Lola Rodriques de
Aragon in Spain.
In addition to these awards, Ms. Dobbs won the coveted first prize at
the International Music Competition in Geneva over hundreds of other
singers from four continents. Shortly afterwards, her international
career took off with her debut in Amsterdam with the Netherlands Opera,
followed by engagements in Paris, London, Vienna, Stockholm, and Milan.
Numerous engagements followed, including and invitation to sing a
command performance before Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, and visiting
King Gustave and Queen Louise of Sweden at the Royal Opera House, Covent
Garden. Following the performance she was decorated with the Order of
the North Star by King Gustave. Her list of festival appearances is also
extensive, including the Edinburgh Festival, Perth (Australia), Auckland
(New Zealand), and the Caramoor, Meadow Brook, and Grant Park Festivals
in the United States. In Russia, Japan, Australia, Israel, South
America, Mexico, Scandinavia, the United States, and all of Europe, she
became a favorite with the opera and concert goers and critics.
Ms. Dobbs presently makes her home outside of Washington, D.C., where
she served as Professor of Voice at Howard University and as a member of
the National Endowment of the Arts Solo Recital Panel. Her many
recordings can be heard on Columbia Records, Angel, and Deutsche
Mattiwilda Dobbs has received the Opera Music Theater International
Lifetime Achievement Award for her illustrious career in the history of
opera, and her commitment to a new generation of OMTI Emerging Artists,
as adjudicator of OMTI International Vocal Competitions, and
International Singers Forum.
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