Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Colored American Opera Company; And Democratic And Un-American Classical Music In The Nation's Capital

"In 1873, just a decade after the Emancipation Proclamation, a group of African American singers debuted as the capital's first opera company.

Organized as the Colored American Opera Company, the troupe's beginnings are rooted in Saint Augustine Roman Catholic Church, a 150-year-old black Catholic congregation that remains an influential parish in the city today. The church choir, responding to the need to raise money for a new building and school, created the opera company, which produced and toured The Doctor of Alcantara, a popular operetta of the times. The endeavor surprised music lovers and raised thousands of dollars.

Now, the history and music of the long-forgotten company have been resurrected by the Music Center at Strathmore, a concert hall just outside the District of Columbia in Bethesda, Maryland. Through narration, song and an operatic concert performance Free to Sing: The Story of the First African-American Opera Company, an original Strathmore production that premieres February 16, tells the heroic story of those early singers.

"Preserving and presenting local music is an important goal of Strathmore," says the center's artistic director, Shelley Brown, who launched the research that culminated in the production. She had stumbled on a mention of a "colored" opera company while researching the area's musical history." ...

Marian Smith Holmes "Lifting their Voices: Paying tribute to America's first black opera [company]" January 30, 2008.


In 1892, the first African-American performers appeared at Carnegie Hall.

Democratic Classical Music in the Nation's Capital. (For Un-American Classical Music in the Nation's Capital, see Sharon Percy Rockefeller's Classical WETA-FM: Public Radio for so-called Greater Washington.)

Photo credit: (c) Morgan State University Choir. 2008. All rights reserved. Via And (c) 2008. All rights reserved. With thanks.


If you support American Classical Music for the Nation's Capital, please call or write:

Ms. Sharon Percy Rockefeller
President and CEO
Classical WETA-FM
2775 South Quincy St.
Arlington, VA 22206
tel 703.998.2600
fax 703.998.3401


Blogger JW said...

Fascinating! I'd never heard of this historic company. Thanks for bringing it up. Nice joke at the end.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Thanks JW for reading, and for your comment. (And for appreciating my joke ...)

If I am not mistaken, these performances have attracted widespread interest and may have already sold out. (Time to schedule additional performances?)

All best,


8:08 AM  

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