JAMES K. MCCULLY,  President  &  General Director

Mattiwilda Dobbs
Opera Music Theater International
OMTI Lifetime Achievement Award

Mattiwilda 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 Gramaphone.

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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