Lillian Evans Tibbs, with son in park, walking - 1940
Lillian Evans Tibbs (1890-1967), professionally known as Madame Lillian Evanti, was a lyric soprano who received international acclaim. She was the first black woman to sing opera with an organized company in Europe.
A native Washingtonian, Annie Wilson Lillian Evans was the daughter of teachers Anne Brooks and Dr. Bruce Evans. She sang in her first public concert, a charity event, at age four. Evanti attended Armstrong Manual Training School and Miner Teachers College, and graduated from Howard University School of Music in 1917. She met her future husband Roy Tibbs at Howard. While embarking on her musical career, Evanti taught kindergarten in the DC Public Schools. In 1924 she left for Paris for further training and for better professional opportunities at a time when American opera and classical music companies refused to admit African Americans. She adopted the stage name Madame Lillian Evanti, combining Evans and Tibbs into an Italian-style name.
Evanti made her professional debut in Nice in 1925, beginning a period of touring Europe interspersed with visits to her family in Washington, including a concert at the Lincoln Theatre. In 1934 she performed at the White House for President Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. Evanti was also a composer, who wrote the music for “Hail to Washington,” with lyrics by poet Georgia Douglass Johnson. After returning to Washington, Evanti performed with the National Negro Opera Company, portraying Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata. The 1943 production was performed on the floating Watergate Theater barge on the Potomac River.
The Evans and Tibbs families have owned and/or lived in this house since 1904. After Evanti's death, her grandson, art collector Thurlow Tibbs, Jr., lived here. In the 1970s he founded and operated an art gallery, the Evans-Tibbs Collection. Tibbs died in 1997 and bequeathed the collection to the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The Evans-Tibbs house was listed on the DC Inventory of Historic Places in 1985 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.