Amanda Ira Aldridge was a remarkable African-American operatic soprano singer who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. Born in 1866 in London, England, she was the daughter of Ira Aldridge, a well-known African-American Shakespearean actor. Amanda Aldridge’s talent and hard work helped her to break down barriers and become a trailblazer for other African-Americans in the world of classical music.
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, let’s celebrate this hidden figure and her massive contributions to the genre.
Early Life and Education
Amanda Aldridge grew up in a family of musicians and actors, with her father Ira Aldridge being one of the most celebrated Shakespearean actors of the 19th century. Her mother, Amanda Brandt, was Swedish, according to the English Heritage. Born March 10, 1866, the Upper Norwood, London native showed a keen interest in music from an early age.
In 1883, at the age of 17, Aldridge enrolled in the Royal College of Music in London, where she took voice lessons with Jenny Lind and Sir George Henschel. She also studied harmony and counterpoint with Frederick Bridge and Francis Edward Gladstone.
The multi-talented star quickly established herself as a talented and dedicated student. Her hard work paid off when she was awarded the Academy’s Silver Medal for singing in 1887.
She also had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Europe with her family, which exposed her to a wide range of musical styles and cultures.
After completing her studies, Amanda Aldridge began her career as an opera singer. She made her professional debut in 1892 in the role of Aida in Verdi’s opera of the same name. Her performance was a great success, and she went on to perform in many other operas throughout Europe, including La Traviata, Carmen and The Magic Flute. She was known for her powerful voice, impeccable technique, and dramatic presence on stage.
Performing under the pseudonym, Montague Ring, Aldridge wrote over thirty songs and dozens of instrumental music. The star was known for her unique ability to merge different rhythmic influences and genres into her masterpieces, according to Classical FM.
Her works include “Three Arabian Dances,” “Lazy Dance” and “Little Missie Cakewalk,” among other hits.
Teaching and Advocacy
In addition to her career as an opera singer, Amanda Aldridge was also a dedicated teacher and advocate for the rights of African-American musicians and artists. She taught music at a school in London and also gave private lessons to many aspiring young singers. She was known for her kindness, generosity and commitment to helping others.
Her hard work and determination helped other African American artists break into the white-dominated field. The icon taught singing and music lessons to some of the most prolific Black artists across music and drama including legendary bass-baritone Paul Robeson and singer Marian Anderson.
Amanda Aldridge was also involved in various social causes throughout her life. She worked to improve the lives of African-American musicians and artists, advocating for fair treatment and opportunities in the classical music world. She was also involved in organizations that supported women’s rights and the education of young women.
In 1921, activist and scholar W. E. B. Du Bois invited the talented musician to attend the Second Pan-African Congress which addressed issues facing Africa as a result of European colonialism.
She had to turn down the prestigious event as she was caring for her very ill sister at the time.
Amanda Aldridge’s contributions to the world of classical music and to Black culture more broadly continue to be remembered and celebrated today. Her talent, hard work, and dedication to her craft helped to break down barriers and inspire future generations of African-American singers and musicians. Her legacy is a testament to the power of music to bring people together and to the resilience and determination of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
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