Black Diva of the Thirties: The Life of Ruby Elzy [NOOK Book]

Overview

While undergoing routine surgery to remove a benign tumor, Ruby Elzy died. She was only thirty-five. Had she lived, she would have been one of the first black artists to appear in grand opera.

Although now in the shadows, she was a shining star in her day. She entertained Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House. She was Paul Robeson's leading lady in the movie version of The Emperor Jones. She co-starred in Birth of the Blues opposite Bing Crosby and Mary Martin. She sang at ...

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Black Diva of the Thirties: The Life of Ruby Elzy

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Overview

While undergoing routine surgery to remove a benign tumor, Ruby Elzy died. She was only thirty-five. Had she lived, she would have been one of the first black artists to appear in grand opera.

Although now in the shadows, she was a shining star in her day. She entertained Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House. She was Paul Robeson's leading lady in the movie version of The Emperor Jones. She co-starred in Birth of the Blues opposite Bing Crosby and Mary Martin. She sang at Harlem's Apollo Theater and in the Hollywood Bowl. Her remarkable soprano voice was known to millions over the radio. She was personally chosen by George Gershwin to create one of the leading roles in his masterpiece, that of Serena in the original production of Porgy and Bess. Her signature song was the vocally demanding "My Man's Gone Now."

From obscurity she had risen to great heights. Ruby Pearl Elzy (1908-1943) was born in abject poverty in Pontotoc, Mississippi. Her father abandoned the family when she was five, leaving her mother, a strong, devout woman, to raise four small children. Ruby first sang publicly at the age of four and even in childhood dreamed of a career on the stage. Good fortune struck when a visiting professor, overwhelmed upon hearing her beautiful voice at Rust College in Mississippi, arranged for her to study music at Ohio State University. Later, on a Rosenwald Fellowship, she enrolled at the Juilliard School in New York City.

After more than 800 performances in Porgy and Bess, she set her sights on a huge goal, to sing in grand opera. She was at the peak of her form. While she was preparing for her debut in the title role of Verdi's Aida, tragedy struck.

During her brief career, Ruby Elzy was in the top tier of American sopranos and a precursor who paved a way for Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, and other black divas of the operatic stage. This biography acknowledges her exceptional talent, recognizes her contribution to American music, and tells her tragic yet inspiring story.

David E. Weaver has sung professionally in more than two dozen roles in operas and musicals. His career in the arts and in broadcasting has spanned more than twenty-five years. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781604737653
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 1/19/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

David E. Weaver has sung professionally in more than two dozen roles in operas and musicals. His career in the arts and in broadcasting has spanned more than twenty-five years. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii
Prologue: A Concert at the White House 3
Mississippi Jewel 9
Stumbling Upward 33
A Magnolia in Manhattan 57
The Birth of Porgy and Bess 80
"My Man's Gone Now" 99
Rising Star 114
"Serena Out West" 124
"Going Hollywood" 134
"Where Is Dis Road A-leadin' Me To?" 147
Porgy and Bess Triumphant 163
"I'm on My Way" 176
Epilogue: "Don't You Weep When I'm Gone" 188
Research and References 193
Acknowledgments 201
Index 204
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2004

    An Accomplished Debut

    BLACK DIVA OF THE THIRTIES: THE LIFE OF RUBY ELZY is a fascinating and moving tribute to the great American soprano by first-time author David Weaver. Mr. Weaver¿s solid musical background serves him well in capturing the successes and the ultimate tragedy of this incomparable artist¿s life and career, and it¿s a testament to the author¿s style and sensitivity that no lofty musical pronouncements tarnish the pages of this book. Weaver treats his subject with intelligence and respect and it shows. Biographers new to their craft often fall into the trap of overstating (and overstuffing) their subject¿s history, but all such pitfalls are avoided here. The book is a model of its kind and portrays Ruby Elzy¿s life and times in a warm, comprehensive and thoroughly engaging fashion. Weaver is also a born writer and I defy anyone to sample his marvelously evocative Prologue and not read on. The book is a joy to read but more importantly Weaver ensures through the quality of his writing and the integrity of his research that Ruby Elzy¿s distinguished contribution to 20th century music will not be forgotten. The greatest test of any musical biography is whether the reader is compelled at the end of the book to seek out the subject¿s recorded legacy. With BLACK DIVA OF THE THIRTIES David Weaver has accomplished that task triumphantly, leaving the reader only to regret that so little recorded material by Ms. Elzy has survived her untimely passing. This is a wonderful book by a gifted writer and an essential addition to every serious music lover¿s library. (Derek Mannering is the author of MARIO LANZA: A LIFE IN PICTURES published by Robert Hale, London. The author¿s acclaimed and newly revised biography MARIO LANZA: SINGING TO THE GODS will be published in the United States in summer 2005 by University Press of Mississippi.)

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