Some selections from later years show the deterioration of her voice over time. Her Met debut, in the role of the fortune-teller Ulrica in Verdi’s “A Masked Ball” — the only time she performed in staged opera — came when she was 57 and had lost some luster and security.
“We all develop, we struggle, we change,” Robert Russ, the Sony Classical producer responsible for the project, said in an interview. “No need to somehow cover up things which are still acceptable.”
She eventually became prosperous from her concert fees, but one of Anderson’s proudest moments came when she was just starting out and earning $5 or $10 a performance. It was enough that she could call Wanamaker’s Department Store in her hometown of Philadelphia to tell them her mother would no longer be working there scrubbing floors to supplement the family income.
Memory of her achievements may have dimmed over the years, but Philadelphia continues to honor her — most recently with plans to erect a statue of her outside the Academy of Music, where she frequently performed.
Though Anderson’s success was unparalleled in her day among Black classical artists, there were others who had notable careers. Andre cites Harry T. Burleigh , Roland Hayes and Paul Robeson as examples.
“We think of her as the only one, and in many ways she’s the only one who made it to the top,” Andre said. “But she isn’t just this crazy anomaly.