Mattiwilda Dobbs was the Roger Maris of opera: an exceptional talent who was unfortunately somewhat overshadowed by superstars before and during her career. (In Maris’s case, it was Mantle, Ruth, DiMaggio; for Dobbs, it was Marian Andersen, Maria Callas and Leontyne Price.)
Still, she was a formidable presence as a coloratura soprano with the Met, having earlier appeared at La Scala and Covent Garden. Her career kicked off when she won first prize at the Geneva Competition in Switzerland in 1951.
Dobbs (July 11, 1925-December 8, 2015) bravely refused to perform for segregated audiences, and she was not heard in her hometown of Atlanta until 1962. In 1974, she performed at the inauguration of Atlanta’s first African-American mayor, Maynard Jackson, her nephew.