The House on Apple Street
A notable, if hidden, piece of American opera’s history sits in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood. The three-story, 17-room Queen Anne-style house at 7101 Apple Street was the birthplace in 1941 of the National Negro Opera Company, an all-Black troupe that performed in Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C, New York, and Chicago for two decades, starting in 1941. The musician and teacher Mary Cardwell Dawson moved her music school into the house in 1940 and soon organized her students into the pioneering opera company, putting on Aida at the city’s Syria Temple, with a cast that included the future Met star Robert McFerrin. The troupe lasted until Dawson’s death in 1962.