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Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon

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Information about Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon

Profile image of Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Opera Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Spain, France
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
7/11/1925
Birth Location:
Atlanta, Georgia

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Opera Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Spain, France
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
7/11/1925
Birth Location:
Atlanta
See how Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Opera singer Mattiwilda Dobbs was born on July 11, 1925 in Atlanta, Georgia. The fifth of six daughters, she sang her first solo at age six and began her musical studies in piano during Dobbs’ childhood. A member of the last graduating class from Atlanta University Lab School, Dobbs earned her high school diploma in 1942.

Receiving her B.A. degree in music from Spelman College in 1946, Dobbs began her formal voice training under the direction of Naomi Maise and Willis Laurence James. After graduating, she studied with Lotte Leonard and Pierre Bernac and attended the Mannes College of Music and the Berkshire Music Center’s Opera Workshop.

Dobbs gained notoriety after winning a 1951 international music competition in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1953, Dobbs performed at the La Scala Opera House in Milan, making her the first African American woman to appear in a principal role there. After becoming the first African American to play a major role for the San Francisco Opera in 1955, she debuted at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1956. Refusing to appear before segregated crowds, Dobbs did not perform in her hometown of Atlanta until 1962, where she appeared in front of an integrated audience at the Municipal Auditorium.

In 1973, Dobbs started teaching at the University of Texas at Austin. She also worked as a professor at Spelman College, the University of Illinois, the University of Georgia and Howard University. She ended her teaching career when she retired from Howard in 1991 and she retired from singing two years later.

In 1999, Testament Records released Mattiwilda Dobbs: Songs and Lieder, a CD of her early recordings.

The aunt of former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, Dobbs has been married twice. Her first husband, Spanish playwright and journalist, Luis Rodriguez, died a year into their marriage. She then married Swedish newspaper journalist Bengt Janzon for nearly forty years until his death in 1997.

Dobbs passed away on December 8, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.

See how Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon describes her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon talks about the origin of her first name
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon describes her father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon describes her father's career as a Railway Mail Service clerk
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon recalls her father receiving help from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was denied his mail clerk pension
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon remembers her father's leadership of the black Masons
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon describes her upbringing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon remembers her paternal grandmother who was born a slave
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon shares stories from her paternal family
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon tries to remember her earliest memory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon recalls her family life as a child in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon lists her siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon describes her childhood home on Houston Street in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon recalls her education in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon describes her early singing experiences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon recalls her education in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon remembers her favorite pastimes as a young teenager
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon remembers influential teachers and experiences at Atlanta University Laboratory High School in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon talks about her interest in fashion design
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon recalls how her singing ability developed at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon remembers how she became a student of Lotte Leonard after college
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon recalls her studies at Mannes School of Music and Columbia University in New York and Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon remembers obtaining an Opportunity Fellowship to study song literature in Paris, France
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon recalls how winning the Geneva International Music Competition launched her operatic career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon explains the difference between lieder recitals, orchestral concerts, and opera
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon recalls making her debut in New York, New York with impresario Sol Hurok
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon remembers living with her first husband in Paris, France and Madrid, Spain
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon reflects upon her American debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon describes her global opera career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon remembers integrating Atlanta Municipal Auditorium in Atlanta, Georgia in 1962
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon explains how desegregation in the United States impacted her singing career and living situation
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon explains how she prepares to perform
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon talks about her sister, Irene Dobbs Jackson, and nephew Maynard Jackson, Jr.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon recalls her career as a music professor
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon describes her experience as a professor of music at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon gives advices to African Americans interested in singing opera
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon talks about performing all over the world
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon gives her opinion on rap music
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon remembers the music at her family's church in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon explains why history is important
  • Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon describes her concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon reflects upon the advantages of her childhood in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon reflects upon the status of historically black colleges and universities
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon describes how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon narrates her photographs, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon narrates her photographs, pt. 2