Tessie Lushanya Mobley
1906 - 1990
Born in 1906, Lushanya became one of the world’s most famous and loved operatic sopranos in the 1940’s and 1950’s. She grew up on her family farm where she learned to break horses, shoot a rifle and started learning the piano when she was just six years old. After studying opera at several American universities, Lushanya left for Berlin, Germany to study at the Staatliche Akademische Hoschscule fur Musik from 1931-1934. After attending school in Berlin, she won 12 more scholarships offered by the Mussolini academy to foreigners.
With her excellent music training, Lushanya was well on her way to establishing her strong career. Sometimes called “Songbird of the Chickasaws,” her first major solo performance was in the Hollywood Bowl for the 1929 Indian Ceremonials. It was her debut with the Chicago Opera Company at the Trieste opera house in Italy that became one of her strongest break throughs. Critics described her debut as one of the most outstanding and promising made at the Trieste opera house in more than 30 years.
It was her role in the popular opera Aida that made her truly famous. Lushanya played the starring role as an Ethiopian princess in the Egyptian courts. Soon, Lushanya Mobley became a household name, being hailed as both the most talented Soprano and beautiful opera star of the day.
The world stage loved Lushanya so much that there was an opera written about her, “The Robin Woman” by Charles Wakefield Cadman and several portraits were commissioned of her, one of which hangs in the Royal Academy of London. While performing in Europe, she was presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and was asked to sing at the King’s coronation. She was the first American Indian to perform at any of the tradition famed opera houses throughout Europe and the United States.
Throughout her highly popular career, Lushanya rarely missed an opportunity to share with the world about her beloved Chickasaw tribe. She was proud of her heritage and sought to bring greater understanding of her tribe to the greater world around her. One newspaper wrote this about her:
“This modern American girl, whose sleek black hair and black eyes are all that would identify her as one of those who can truly claim to be descended from the first Americans, is herself the link between the old and new. While embodying all that modern culture and education can give and having to her credit the achievement of international distinction in the arts, she cherished her heritage as a member of the Chickasaw tribe.”
Lushanya passed away in 1990 at 84 years of age.