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1005749l.jpgAdele Addison (born July 24, 1925) is an American lyric soprano who was a figure in the classical music world during the 1950s and 1960s. Although she did appear in several operas, Addison spent most of her career performing in recital and concert. Her performances spanned a wide array of literature from the Baroque period to contemporary compositions. She is best remembered today as the singing voice for Bess (played by Dorothy Dandridge) in the 1959 movie, Porgy and Bess. Known for her polished and fluent tone, Addison made a desirable Baroque vocal artist. She can be heard on numerous recordings, of which her Baroque performances are perhaps her best work. Many of her recordings were made with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Leonard Bernstein.

Though she is not well known today, Adele Addison was an acclaimed figure in opera in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1952, her debut performance at Town Hall in New York was met with excellent, enthusiastic reviews. “The recital season reached a high point last night,” one critic wrote, “when Adele Addison, soprano from Springfield, Massachusetts, made her debut in Town Hall.” Addison’s singing voice was complemented by her performance style, which was rich with emotion and intellectual depth.

Carl Van Vechten photographed Addison in 1955, the year she played Mimi in La Boheme at City Center in New York. Adele Addison’s performance was highly praised by the reviewer from the New York Post, who wrote: Adele Addison, young Negro soprano, who made her debut with the New York City Opera yesterday afternoon as Mimi in Puccini’s “La Boheme” is about the most appealing interpreter of the little Parisian seamstress yet to appear on the City Center stage. Small, frail looking, and pretty, Miss Addison enhanced these assets by acting and singing with moving poignancy and sincerity.

In 1957, when Addison again performed at Town Hall, Howard Taubman wrote “Adele Addison . . . is developing into an artist of distinction. Her performance last night at Town Hall had high purpose and impressive achievement. . . . [Her] soprano has delicacy of texture and glowing warmth.”

Adele Addison in 1955 (photographed by Carl Van Vechten)
by Carl Van Vechten

Addison, who studied at Westminster Choir College and The Julliard School, made a number of records, including Bach’s Saint Matthew’s Passion and Handel’s Messiah, under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. She was a voice instructor at several important schools, including the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, where she served as chair of the Voice Department.

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