Ben Holt Collection
Ben Holt Collection
Ben Holt, a D.C. native, started his operatic career as a young child, performing as the boy soprano in Mendelssohn’s oratorio, Elijah at the Metropolitan Methodist Church of Baltimore, MD when he was just 11 years old. Having attended both the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Juilliard School, he had a short but illustrious career until his untimely death from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1990, aged just 34. Holt performed with several different opera companies, including the Metropolitan, San Francisco and the Virginia. He even performed internationally in both Italy and the United Kingdom. Although he had moved to New York, Ben frequently returned to the D.C. area where he performed in schools, churches, clubs, libraries, and senior citizen centers. He also sang with the University of the District of Columbia’s Lorton Prison College program.
In 2020, his mother, Mayme Holt, who was born in Alexandria and still has strong connections to the city, generously donated a treasure trove of memorabilia documenting Ben’s career, including photo albums, scrapbooks, an extensive collection of playbills from his numerous performances, and sheet music. Among the Italian, French and German opera standards, the museum staff was excited to discover a typed copy of Anthony Davis’ opera, “X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X,” in which Ben had played the title role at its world premiere in 1986.
Celebrating an Alexandria Legacy (Out of the Attic article, Alexandria Times, February 11, 2021)
See more collections from the Alexandria Black History Museum
IMLS Museum Grant for African American History and Culture
The Alexandria Black History Museum is a proud recipient of a 2021-2023 grant from the IMLS Museum Grants for African American History and Culture. This highly competitive and generous grant will enable the museum to digitize, interpret, and make four important archival collections publicly accessible, including the Ben Holt Collection.
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