ABOVE PHOTO: Camilla Williams in Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” with the New York City Opera.
(Photo courtesy: AmistadResearch Center)
INDIANAPOLIS — African American opera pioneer Camilla Williams has died in Bloomington. She was 92.
Williams’ attorney, Eric Slotegraaf, said in a statement that the soprano died Sunday.
Indiana University Jacobs School of Music spokesman Alain Barker said Williams died of complications from cancer.
The school says Williams became the first African American female to appear with a major U.S. opera company when she debuted on May 15, 1946, with New York City Opera in the title role of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.”
She became the first African American professor of voice at IU in 1977 and retired in 1997.
Williams was born in Danville, Va., on Oct. 18, 1919, the daughter of a chauffeur. Her grandfather was a singer and choir leader, and by age 8 she was singing in Danville’s Calvary Baptist Church.