Lillian Evanti

Facts about Lillian Evanti

Lillian Evanti died at 77 years old
Born: August 12, 1890
Birthplace: Washington, D.C.,
Best known as: The first African-American woman to sing opera professionally


Lillian Evanti Biography

Madame Lillian Evanti was the performing name of Lillian Evans Tibbs, the first Black American coloratura soprano to sing for an organized opera company.

Born in Washington, D.C., her father was a physician and educator and her mother was a music teacher who recognized Lillian’s talents early on.

She graduated from Miner Teachers College and was a school teacher, then studied music and graduated from Howard University in 1917.

Evans married her college music instructor, Roy W. Tibbs, in 1918. Around Washington, D.C. she was a popular performer, but a career as an opera singer for an African-American was unheard of in the 1920s, so she went to Europe.

From 1925 she performed mostly in Europe, but also in the United States and throughout South America. Evanti could sing and speak five languages and had an extensive operatic repertoire.

During her career, Evanti performed for President and First Lady Roosevelt (1934), toured South America with Arturo Toscani(1940) and was an unofficial dignitary at the inauguration of Nigerian president Nnamdi “Zik” Azikiwe (1962).

Evanti also composed music, including the songs “Himno Panamericano” and “Salute to Ghana” and “Forward March to Victory.”

Extra credit

Some sources list her birth year as 1891.