|Year of Birth:||1937|
Grace Melzia Bumbry (born January 4, 1937), an American opera singer, is considered one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of her generation, as well as a major soprano for many years. She was a member of a pioneering generation of African-American opera and classical singers who followed Marian Anderson (including Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett and Reri Grist) in the world of classical music and paved the way for future African-American opera and concert singers. Bumbry's voice was rich and sizable, possessing a wide range, and was capable of producing a very distinctive plangent tone.
In her prime, she also possessed good agility and bel canto technique (see for example her renditions of the 'Veil Song' from Verdi's Don Carlo in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as her Ernani from the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1984). She was particularly noted for her fiery temperament and dramatic intensity on stage. More recently, she has also become known as a recitalist and interpreter of lieder, and as a teacher. From the late 1980s on, she concentrated her career in Europe, rather than in the US. A long-time resident of Switzerland, she now makes her home in Salzburg, Austria.
Bumbry's career in the world of opera was a remarkable and long one, if somewhat controversial. Initially, Bumbry began her career as a mezzo-soprano, but later expanded her repertoire to include many dramatic soprano roles. In the mid-1970s and 1980s she considered herself a soprano; but in the 1990s, as her career approached its twilight, she often returned to mezzo roles. She was one of the more successful singers who have made the transition from mezzo-soprano to high soprano (along with her compatriot and contemporary Shirley Verrett); however, audiences and critics were divided over whether she was a "true" soprano. Nonetheless, she sang major soprano roles at most major opera houses around the world up until the end of her operatic career in the 1990s—singing Turandot at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden (London) in 1993, for example. Her operatic career spanned from 1960 (her debut in Paris as Amneris) to 1997 (as Klytämnestra, in Lyon, France).