Louisa Melvin Delos Mars: First African American Woman to Produce an Opera

0 Posted by - November 20, 2021 - Black History, BLACK WOMEN, History, LATEST POSTS

Louisa Melvin Delos Mars was one of the first black women to graduate from the New England Conservatory of Music, and the first black woman to have an opera produced. The opera, “Leoni, the Gypsy Queen,” was performed in Providence, Rhode Island in 1889. She would also perform in her own operettas. She composed and copyrighted five full-length musical dramas between 1889 and 1926.

Mars was born Louisa Melvin in Providence, Rhode Island around 1858. She was the oldest daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Melvin. During the 1880s she and her younger sister, Carrie Melvin Lucas, formed a duo, with Carrie playing violin and cornet with Louisa singing.

Mars went on to compose and star in four more full-length operettas which were staged in either Boston, Massachusetts or Providence, Rhode Island between 1880–1896. Not much is known about Mars’ life after 1896.



Southern, E. (1997) The Music of Black Americans: W. W. Norton & Compan

1 Comment

  • Peter June 26, 2019 - 3:37 am

    Hi! I happened upon her Wikipedia article while browsing through American women composers, and when I noticed the big about her basically disappearing around the turn of the century I was intrigued. A quick look on FamilySearch (a free genealogy site) yielded other users’ research in assembling a partial family tree for her. As it happens, she married again in 1909 – to a Victor LeBaron; it also appears that she died in 1919 (her death certificate, attested by Mr. LeBaron, shows her parents’ names – and, in conjunction with her marriage record to Victor – confirms her identity, as her surname is given as De Los Mars on that form.