An introduction to soprano Caterina Jarboro, the first female black singer to perform on a US opera stage

22 years before Marian Anderson gave her legendary debut at the Metropolitan Opera, Caterina Jarboro became the first black woman to join an all-white company on an American opera stage

Soprano Caterina Jarboro

In 1933, Caterina Jarboro became the first black woman to sing on an opera stage in the US, 22 years before Marian Anderson gave her debut at the Metropolitan Opera.

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Jarboro played the title role in Verdi’s Aida at the New York Hippodrome with an otherwise all-white company.

She grew up in North Carolina to a black father and an American Indian mother, moving to Brooklyn, New York in her early teens.

After her successful performance in Aida, the New York Metropolitan Association invited her to become a member, but subsequently realised she was Afro-Indian rather than Italian, so had her membership revoked. Later in her life after a successful career, the association offered her membership again, but she declined.

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After her performance at the New York Hippodrome in 1933, Jarboro went on to appear on stages across Europe and performed recitals at the Town Hall and Carnegie Hall in New York City.