"Aida’s Brothers & Sisters" – Quotes
“No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise."
“Sometimes, it’s like a hair across your cheek. You can’t see it, you can’t find it with your fingers, but you keep brushing at it because the feel of it is irritating."
“It was Miss Anderson who stood as a symbol for the emergence of the Negro; and while she herself never militantly participated in the civil-rights movement, she was revered as one who, by the force of her personality, talent and probity, was able to become a world figure despite her humble birth and minority status. In a way, she was part of the American dream. And her success story was an inspiration to younger Negro musicians."
Harold C. Schoenberg, on the occasion of Marian Anderson’s farewell concert
“It is well to remember that the America which we know has risen out of the toil of many millions who have come here seeking freedom from all parts of the world. The Irish and Scots indentured servants who cleared the forests, built the colonial homesteads, and were part of the productive back bone of our early days. The millions of German immigrants of the mid-nineteenth century, the millions more from Eastern Europe whose sweat and sacrifice in the steel mills, the coal mines and the factories made possible the industrial revolution ... the brave Jewish people from all parts of Europe who have so enriched our lives on this continent; the workers from Mexico and from the East – Japan and the Philippines – whose labor has helped make the West and the Southwest a rich and fruitful land. And, through it all, from the earliest days – before Columbus – the Negro people, upon whose unpaid toil as slaves the basic wealth of this nation was built! These are the forces that have made America great and preserved our democratic heritage."
“People of colour – in those days were called coloured people, and later on we became Negroes and then Black and now African-American. But we were not allowed to sit downstairs in the movie theatre with white people. I could not play golf on the golf course; we were not allowed to swim in the swimming pool with white people at the same time. They would only let people of colour swim on Saturdays in the mornings. And then we had to get out of the pool around eleven o’clock, and then they would put in more disinfectant in the water before they let the white students come in."
“I always loved the theatre, I loved acting, and the reason that I rejected a career as an actress was that the only role an African-American could get at that time, was a servant on a stage or in a film, and mostly men, or you had to be a cook, or someone serving someone else. And I thought that’s not for me."
“I said, thank God, I never had to sing Bess, I never had to sing Aida, because I’m not a soprano. But I really was a little against the typical casting, which has nothing to do with your voice, or your type, but just because you had to have a dark skin."
“I can always tell when there is a black singer or a black speaker. I can always tell, I may be wrong one time out of one hundred."
“I hear a throatier sound placed lower with a very low larynx, a sound that can be – not always and I speak only of classical singing now – warm and rich. Sometimes it is harsh and very open throat. But I would also like to say that I have heard this sound on occasion in the singing of Marilyn Horn and Kathleen Ferrier. And I’m sure there are several others around who are not of African-American descent who have these qualities in their operatic singing voices."
“Does it bother you that Zinka Milanov really isn’t Ethiopian when she sings Aida? Does it bother you that Mario del Monaco isn’t a moor, when he sings Othello? If you are not bothered by that then why would you be bothered by the fact, that I’m an African-American singing the role of a French nobleman?"
“The piece that I’m going to be singing here in this theatre tomorrow is ‘Die schöne Müllerin’ by Schubert, which is only sung by men. But I love this piece and I feel, that the feelings that this young man expresses from the beginning of his arrival and his whole emotional journey are something that any human being can express. So I think this is what we’ve been able to do through the fact that the barriers to the opera houses and to the concert halls were broken down. So we go past the exteriors of colour and gender even, to get through to what the real meaning of the music is."
“I’m sure that during the years when we were all at the Metropolitan Theatre – Bumbry, Price and so – there were many people who didn’t want to see us there. But we did help to sell tickets."