Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
Lenora Lafayette (1926-1975) was an African-American opera singer who developed her professional path while facing tremendous racial, cultural, and economic barriers. She was a Louisiana native with great vocal potential who attempted to enroll at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, but was denied admission due to segregation. Lenora attended The Juilliard School as an alternative and earned scholarships that covered her tuition for an entire year. She studied with the prestigious faculty member Dusolina Giannini and developed her talent to the degree that she was able to win a John Hay Whitney Fellowship for study abroad. She traveled to Switzerland and established herself as a leading artist, debuting as ‘Aida’ at the Basel Opera House. She later repeated the same role at Covent Garden and made history as the first African-American to perform at the Royal Opera House. Although she did not experience the widespread fame of such contemporaries as Leontyne Price, her international achievements were quite extraordinary for an African-American female of her time. She survived solely on a performance career that was built shortly after World War II and reached its peak prior to the Civil Rights Movement. This study chronicles the musical journey of Lenora Lafayette and examines some of the similarities between her career experiences and those of four other African-American contemporaries. Chapter one will provide a biographical sketch of Ms. Lafayette. It will address her initial interest in singing and her music education. Chapter Two will follow Ms. Lafayette’s performance career. It will discuss some of her early appearances, recount her most significant professional achievement of integrating Covent Garden, and identify some of the performers, conductors, and directors with whom she worked during the course of her profession. It will also discuss the abrupt termination of her career and feature four persons from Baton Rouge whose lives were significantly influenced by her achievements. Chapter Three will provide a brief overview of the careers of four of Lenora’s contemporaries (three females and one male) and will discuss similarities and differences among their career experiences with those of Ms. Lafayette.
Document Availability at the Time of Submission
Secure the entire work for patent and/or proprietary purposes for a period of one year. Student has submitted appropriate documentation which states: During this period the copyright owner also agrees not to exercise her/his ownership rights, including public use in works, without prior authorization from LSU. At the end of the one year period, either we or LSU may request an automatic extension for one additional year. At the end of the one year secure period (or its extension, if such is requested), the work will be released for access worldwide.
Pitcher, Kyla Dean, "The Musical Journey of Opera Singer Lenora Lafayette: A Louisiana Treasure" (2006). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 2936.