An Accidental Soprano

The Anchoress' sharp eye caught this lovely obituary for Betty Allen, part of the initial "class" of great black sopranos, who passed away Monday. I like her description of her initial exposure to Opera during her childhood outside of Youngstown.
“The families on my street were mostly Sicilian and Greek,” Ms. Allen told The Times in 1999. “On Saturday, walking down the street, you could hear the Met broadcasts coming from the windows of everybody’s house. No one told them that opera and the arts were not for them, not for poor people, just for rich snobs.”
After her mother died when she was 12, her father fell into drink and she made her own way in the world from that point on. Since she excelled in Latin & German in high school, she went to college intending to become a translator, but got discovered instead. Her repertoire was largely modern (she was a favorite of Bernstein), which is probably the real reason she's not so well known (we can all pretend, but modern composition just isn't as well-liked as Verdi, Puccini and Mozart, Oh my).

If Ms. Allen was not as well known as other singers of her era, like Ms. Price, Shirley Verrett and Grace Bumbry, it did not seem to bother her in the slightest.

“I’m not a household name,” she told The Times in the 1973 interview. “I don’t stay awake nights plotting and planning. Maybe I don’t have that extra drive and ambition and energy that makes for a blazing career. I need a home, and I need to be looked after. I may look to be a very self-sufficient female. I act very brazen and hard and matter-of-fact and seem as though I could cope with anything. Well, I can’t. I’m as soft as putty underneath.”
Very nice story.