|Articles, Arts, Biography, Europe, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2015-08-19 01:52Z by Steven|
The New Yorker
Alex Ross, Music Critic
The rich legacy of Ira Aldridge, the pioneering black Shakespearean.
In 1896, a thirty-six-year-old opera singer named Luranah Aldridge travelled to Germany to prepare for performances of Wagner’s “Ring of the Nibelung,” at the Bayreuth Festival. Dozens of young singers had made such a journey before her: thirteen years after Wagner’s death, Bayreuth had become a summit of the operatic world. Aldridge, though, was of mixed race: an English native, she was the daughter of an African-American and a Swede. The casting of a nonwhite performer in Wagner’s Nordic-Teutonic saga might have been expected to arouse opposition, given the notorious racism of the composer and many of his followers, yet an advance guide to the 1896 festival treats Aldridge simply as a promising novelty:
A name that may well ring strangely in the ears of even the most observant art lovers is that of Luranah Aldridge, who will sing one of the eight Valkyries. Of Luranah Aldridge one cannot say that she did not come from far off, as she hails—from Africa. She is the daughter of the African tragedian Ira Aldridge and studied singing in Germany, England and France, and has appeared with great success in operas and concerts outside of Germany. She is praised as the possessor of a true contralto voice with a wide range. In the course of the festival there will be an opportunity to put these statements to the test.
The singer fell sick during rehearsals and did not perform that summer. Despite encouragement from Cosima Wagner, the composer’s widow, Aldridge faded from view. A few reference works mention her; otherwise, she has vanished from the historical record…
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