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Anne Brown

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Information about Anne Brown

Profile image of Anne Brown

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Classical Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Winter
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Italy
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
8/9/1912
Birth Location:
Baltimore, Maryland

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Classical Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Winter
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Italy
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
8/9/1912
Birth Location:
Baltimore
See how Anne Brown is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Soprano legend Anne Wiggins Brown was the first person to play the leading role of “Bess” in the production of Porgy and Bess on Broadway. Brown was born on August 9, 1912, in Baltimore, Maryland. Her father, Harry Brown, was a prominent physician and a grandson of a slave. Her mother, Mary Allen Wiggins, descended from a family of singers and studied voice and piano in New York. Brown was named after her paternal grandmother, Annie E. Brown, a gifted singer and evangelist who toured the southeastern United States spreading the gospel. Her maternal grandfather, William Henry Wiggins, was known for his lyric tenor voice. Brown and her three sisters lived in a segregated community, where their mother tutored them in piano and involved the sisters in music and theatre. At twelve years old, Brown attended Frederick Douglass High School which had a superb music program. She studied music with W. Llewellyn Wilson. After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School, Brown auditioned for the Juilliard School and became the first African American to win the prestigious Margaret McGill Scholarship. Brown was sixteen years old when she began studying with Lucia Dunham at Juilliard.

Brown’s scholarship drew the attention of George Gershwin who was seeking singers for his new opera, then called simply Porgy. After auditioning for him, singing the spiritual City of Heaven without accompaniment, he awarded her the part of “Bess”. The two worked closely on the opera, rewriting the third act to have her sing Summertime and even changing the opera’s title to Porgy and Bess, reflecting the importance of her role. On October 10, 1935, Porgy and Bess premiered at New York’s Alvin Theater, with Brown as its first “Bess”. Brown went on to appear in the Broadway play Mamba’s Daughters and in the film Rhapsody in Blue. She reprised her role as “Bess” in various revivals of Porgy and Bess and between 1942 and 1948, and achieved celebrated performances as a concert artist at Carnegie Hall and with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

In 1948, Brown settled in Oslo, Norway, where she met and married Norwegian Olympic ski jumper, Thorleif Schjelderup. Until the early 1950s, she worked as a professional musician on productions like Menotti’s The Medium and The Telephone. However, during a European tour in 1953, she was diagnosed with asthma, which ended her singing career. After this, Brown worked several years as a music teacher. Among her students were actress Liv Ullmann, jazz singer Karin Krog and folk singer Ase Kleveland. She also staged several operas in France and Norway. In 2000, Brown was awarded Norway’s Council of Cultures Honorary Award.

Brown passed away on March 13, 2009, in Oslo, Norway, at the age of 96.

See how Anne Brown is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Anne Brown's interview, session 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Anne Brown lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Anne Brown describes her parents' family backgrounds
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Anne Brown describes her father's personality and physical appearance
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Anne Brown remembers her childhood in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Anne Brown describes her father's office in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Anne Brown describes her family's history of religious singing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Anne Brown describes her early interest in music
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Anne Brown describes her education in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Anne Brown describes her aspirations as a child
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Anne Brown describes the types of music she listened to as a child
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Anne Brown recalls her scholarship to Juilliard School of Music
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Anne Brown recalls her early determination to become a singer
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Anne Brown recalls her training at The Julliard School in New York City
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Anne Brown describes her sisters' education and careers
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Anne Brown remembers Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Anne Brown describes the lack of racial tension at Juilliard School of Music
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Anne Brown recalls her parents' serious personalities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Anne Brown describes her experiences of racial discrimination in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Anne Brown plays 'The Man I Love'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Slating of Anne Brown's interview, session 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Anne Brown recalls auditioning for George Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Anne Brown remembers George Gershwin's writing process for 'Porgy and Bess'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Anne Brown describes some of the original cast members of 'Porgy and Bess'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Anne Brown reflects upon African Americans' portrayal in 'Porgy and Bess'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Anne Brown describes her father's thoughts on her role in 'Porgy and Bess'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Anne Brown recalls when George Gershwin renamed 'Porgy and Bess'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Anne Brown describes her protests against segregation during 'Porgy and Bess'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Anne Brown describes her other roles on Broadway
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Anne Brown recalls her first marriages
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Anne Brown recalls some of her performances in Norway
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Anne Brown plays a recording of her performance of 'Nightingale'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Anne Brown plays a recording of her performance of 'Warum sind den die Rosen so blass'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Anne Brown plays a recording of her performance of 'Pleurez, Pleurez mes yeux'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Anne Brown recalls her life and career in Norway
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Anne Brown describes her daughter's boarding school in Switzerland
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Anne Brown remembers her decision to live in Norway
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Anne Brown recalls reprising the role of Bess in 'Porgy and Bess'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Anne Brown describes her classical singing career in Norway
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Anne Brown describes her performances with Gian Carlo Menotti
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Anne Brown describes her experiences of racial discrimination
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Anne Brown reflects upon civil rights in America
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Anne Brown recalls fellow African American opera and classical singers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Anne Brown remembers her singing pupils
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Anne Brown remembers directing operas in Norway
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Anne Brown talks about her autobiography, 'Sang Fra Frossen Gren'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Anne Brown narrates her photographs, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Anne Brown recalls her election as an honorary citizen of Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Anne Brown narrates her photographs, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Anne Brown narrates her photographs, pt. 3
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Anne Brown narrates her photographs, pt. 4
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Anne Brown plays 'I Got Rhythm' and 'Love Walked In' on the piano
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Anne Brown's interview, session 4
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Anne Brown's daughter lists her favorites
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers her mother's voice
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Anne Brown's daughter reflects upon her mother's career
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers moving to Europe with her mother
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers her aunt and father
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Anne Brown's daughter recalls meeting Thorleif Schjelderup
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Anne Brown's daughter recalls listening to her mother's vocal practice
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Anne Brown's daughter describes her childhood aspirations
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers living in Italy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers her mother's voice students
  • Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Anne Brown's daughter lists her favorite singers
  • Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Anne Brown's daughter reflects upon her life away from the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers her mother's cooking
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Anne Brown's daughter recalls growing up as the child of a celebrity