the book is forthcoming. by Danyel Smith. a history of black women in pop. from It Books/HarperCollins (2014). now writing. tumbling this stuff keeps me inspired, and keeps my brain sane.


Grace Bumbry, Mezzo Soprano

Grace 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 singers who followed Marian Anderson (including Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrettand Reri Grist) in the world of classical musicand paved the way for future African American opera and classical 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 Chicago Lyric Opera 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 seemed to concentrate her career in Europe, rather than in the US. A longtime resident of Switzerland, she now makes her home in Salzburg, Austria.


Photo by Erich Auerbach


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