ROBESON, LILA PAULINE (4 April 1880-7 Dec. 1960) was an international opera star and the first Cleveland-born artist to sing with the Metropolitan Opera (1912-1922) in New York.
Born in Cleveland to William and Sarah McIlrath Robeson, she attended CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL and graduated from Western Reserve University (see CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY) in 1902. Robeson studied voice in New York with Isidore Luckstone and received opera training from Oscar Saenger.
A contralto, Robeson was one of the first Americans to succeed in opera theater without European training or experience. She made her operatic debut with the Aborn Opera Company in Boston on April 4, 1911 as Ortrud in Lohengrin. The protege of Johanna Gadski, Robeson was a favorite with Gatti Casazza, the Metropolitan Opera impressario who signed her.
Robeson made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1912 as the Witch in Königskinder. She possessed the phenomenal ability to step onstage at a moment's notice and sing any of 60 operatic parts without rehearsal. Robeson specialized in Wagnerian opera and sang all the leading roles. She appeared opposite Caruso, Schumann-Heink, Alda, and other stars of the Metropolitan Opera's "Golden Era."
In 1922, following a decade with the Metropolitan Opera, Robeson returned to Cleveland. She taught voice at Adelbert, Mather and Cleveland colleges and had her own music studios in Carnegie Hall and the WHK Auditorium. Robeson was credited with bringing the first taste of musical appreciation to Clevelanders during her long career as a voice teacher.