Charlotte Holloman, an African American soprano whose operatic and concert career sprouted in the 1950s and who later became a voice teacher in her native Washington, died July 30 at a nursing home in the District. She was 93.
The cause was breast cancer, said Donna Potts, a family friend.
Although she did not have a major career like Leontyne Price, Shirley Verrett and Betty Allen, Mrs. Holloman belonged to a wave of black singers who began to appear on prominent stages in the years after World War II.
She made her Broadway debut in 1950 in a short-lived musical drama about racial conflict, “The Barrier,” based on a Langston Hughes play. She then appeared in “My Darlin’ Aida” (1952), a version of the Giuseppe Verdi opera reimagined on a Southern plantation amid the Civil War.
Her 1954 recital at New York’s Town Hall concert hall, which included works by Vivaldi, Mozart and Strauss, drew a strong review from New York Times opera critic John G. Briggs Jr., who praised her for “a vocal range and a facility nothing short of phenomenal. She executed staggeringly difficult arias as casually as if they were Marchesi vocalises.” But he added that her vocal “acrobatics” lacked “interpretative subtlety.”
Mrs. Holloman had further recitals in New York and was a featured soloist with symphony orchestras before winning a Rockefeller grant in 1961 that enabled her to study in London and Berlin. She sang with opera companies in Essen and Saarbrucken, Germany, before returning to the United States to embark on a teaching career.
She spent more than two decades at Howard University, in addition to lecturing at other Washington-area colleges. A mentor to several generations of students, she also helped guide musical programs and competitions locally.
Charlotte Wesley was born in the District on March 24, 1922, to a family of educators. Her father, Charles Wesley, was an eminent historian of black history who served as a dean at Howard and later was president of two historically black universities in Ohio, Wilberforce and Central State.
After graduating from Washington’s Dunbar High School in 1937, Mrs. Holloman earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard in 1941 and received a master’s degree in voice and music education from Columbia University in 1943.
One of her instructors at Howard, Todd Duncan, who in 1935 had created the role of Porgy in the original Broadway production of “Porgy and Bess,” encouraged her professional career.
Her marriage to John L.S. Holloman Jr., a noted New York physician, ended in divorce. Survivors include a daughter, Charlotte Holloman of Washington.