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Video clip still
Leontyne Price performs Carl Maria von Weber's "Freischütz."
Aïda's Brothers and Sisters: Black Voices In Opera banner
Leontyne Price in Verdi's "Aida"

With Jessye Norman performing at the Clinton inauguration, Kathleen Battle appearing as the Vatican's Easter Mass soloist, and Simon Estes singing Wotan at New York's Metropolitan Opera, contemporary audiences may take for granted the prominence of African-American singers in opera. Yet it was just 50 years ago that Marian Anderson was barred from Washington's Constitution Hall, and black opera performers have trod a stony path to reach the pinnacle of today's success. Framed by archival clips and new musical sequences, AÏDA'S BROTHERS AND SISTERS: BLACK VOICES IN OPERA tells the story of African Americans in opera from the time of the legendary Paul Robeson.

Featured in interviews are Barbara Hendricks, Grace Bumbry, Simon Estes, Robert McFerrin (the first black baritone to perform at the Met) and his son Bobby McFerrin, Shirley Verrett, and many others, as well as insights from opera company directors and orchestra conductors.

Web Highlights
An introduction to African-American pioneers in opera; the life and legacy of Marian Anderson; and an interview with soprano Shirley Verrett about her career and the struggles of black artists who succeeded in the world of opera.

Click here to explore the Web companion for this program, which originally aired on February 16, 2000.

Top banner photos: Paul Robeson; Barbara Hendricks; Grace Bumbry.

Simon Estes

Simon Estes as Woldemar.

Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson's historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939.