National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Sissieretta Jones: American\African American
Born Portsmouth, Virginia
With a voice said to rival that of Italian diva Adelina Patti, soprano Sissieretta Jones became an inter- national star whose repertoire ranged from grand opera arias to popular ballads. A classically trained singer, Jones made her New York City debut at Steinway Hall in April 1888. After an admiring critic dubbed her “the Black Patti,” she was promoted as such for the remainder of her career. Touring extensively from 1888 until 1896, Jones delighted audiences at home and abroad with solo recitals as well as performances with a variety of musical ensembles.
Although her venues included opera houses and concert halls, racial barriers prevented Jones from performing in mainstream opera. In 1896, she took her career in a new direction by forming Black Patti’s Troubadours, a touring troupe of African American entertainers whose vaudevillian offerings were paired with “operatic kaleidoscopes” showcasing Jones’s extraordinary vocal gifts.