Ben Holt Papers

Institution: Columbia College Chicago - Center for Black Music Research
618 South Michigan
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Phone: (312) 369-7586
Date: 1980-1990
Extent: 7.75 Linear Feet
Finding Aid

Biographical/Historical Note:
Ben Holt, a baritone who sang with the Metropolitan and New York City opera companies, was only thirty-four years old when he died in 1990 of Hodgkin's Disease. He was born in Washington, D.C., in 1955, and studied voice at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, winning a scholarship two years later to the Juilliard School's Opera program. Holt is best known for playing the title role Malcolm in Anthony Davis's opera, X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X in the 1986 New York City Opera company world premiere production, occasioning a ten-minute standing ovation when he came out for a bow on opening night. A popular recitalist, he often programmed work by black composers and arrangements of spirituals. Holt appeared in the Kennedy Center's 1979 National Black Music Colloquium and Competition presentation of composition finalists and went on to perform with a number of major orchestras in his brief career, including the New York Philharmonic, the National Symphony, and Canada's Tafelmusik.

Scope and Content Note:
The collection documents his career as a recitalist and performer of baritone roles in opera and consists almost entirely of ephemera, programs, clippings, reviews, and posters. There are a few textbooks and a considerable collection of operatic scores and sheet music. A complete photocopied score to the Davis opera can also be found, along with partial scores to other operas featuring black performers and by black composers and songs and other classical repertoire.

Related Material: None