On this day in 1955 contralto Marian Anderson made her historic Metropolitan Opera debut.
Miles Kastendieck in the Journal American:
Marian Anderson’s debut on January 7 became one of the historic moments in the Metropolitan Opera’s 71-year-old story. For her it marked the realization of a childhood dream. For the Metropolitan it not only broke tradition but also set a precedent for including Negroes in future casts. For all it created an emotional occasion out of tribute to her as a singer and out of recognition that to her should fall this signal honor of opening the door for singers of her race.
Though she made a relatively brief appearance as Ulrica in the second scene of Verdi’s “The Masked Ball,” Miss Anderson graced the stage through force of personality, dignity of stage presence, and vocal artistry. At the start her voice wavered tremulously quite understandably. An ovation had greeted her on the rise of the curtain and it was some time before she brought her singing under control.
The dark quality of her voice fitted the opening aria; so did its brilliance as it warmed into the rest of the scene. She achieved effectiveness at the climax of the scene, though in general her performance needed more dramatic emphasis. She was thoroughly dedicated to giving as forceful a portrayal as possible, but later appearances will undoubtedly bring the characterization more into line.