An Evening of Opera: 125th Anniversary Tribute to Jules Bledsoe, Baritone
Venue: NYPL Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, 455 Fifth Avenue ,New York, NY 10016 212-340-0863
Jules Bledsoe – Baritone, (late 1890 – 1943)
An exceptionally accomplished singer of classical music, spirituals, and contemporary show tunes of his time, Jules Bledsoe’s powerful baritone voice won the hearts of audiences and critics around the country. He was also an extraordinary composer of vocal music. Born and raised in Texas, he transcended racial discrimination for his unforgettable performance in the original Broadway production of Show Boat. In 1921, he appeared in Shuffle Along, a hit all-black musical revue starring Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake. He studied with several prominent classical vocal teachers in New York, leading to his formal debut there in 1924. He received excellent notices for his performance of classical vocal pieces and spirituals arranged for solo voice. He was often compared to baritone Paul Robeson. Bledsoe was in high demand to perform in many major operas because of his impressive vocal range and ability to sing in multiple languages. His role in Show Boat became his best-known role, and he popularized Ol’ Man River, a song from the musical. Although Bledsoe’s productivity as a composer has yet to be fully cataloged, his vocal work ranged from spiritual settings to popular songs to opera. Musical manuscripts by Bledsoe are held by Baylor University in its Texas Collection and at The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Artistic Director, Gregory Hopkins on piano, Artists: Elisabeth Stevens, Soprano; Krysty Swann, Mezzo Soprano (Courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera); Martin Fisher, Baritone; Charles Williamson, Tenor