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*Denyce Graves was born on this date in 1964. She is a Black Mezzo Soprano vocalist. She was born in southwest Washington, D.C.
Her father left her family when Graves was one year old, and her mother struggled to support the family through most of her childhood. Graves' early musical education was limited to singing gospel in her church's choir. When a few of Graves' junior high school teachers encouraged her to attend the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, one of Washington's most prestigious public schools, she decided to go even though she had no particular interest in music. At the Ellington School, she studied French melodies, German Lieder, and jazz in addition to the operatic arias
which would eventually make her famous.
Upon graduation, Graves had developed her gift enough that Oberlin College in Ohio granted her a scholarship. Graves got her first major exposure at the Houston Grand Opera, for which she performed from 1988 to 1990. Her reputation grew quickly, particularly on the strength of her exciting interpretations of the title roles in Georges Bizet's Carmen and Camille Saint-Saens' Samson et Dalila. Graves made her Metropolitan Opera debut in the 1995 - 1996 season, singing Carmen. She has worked with conductors including Riccardo Chailly, Charles Dutoit, Zubin Mehta, Placido Domingo, and Mstislav Rostropovich; shared a stage with singers such as Domingo, Josi Cura, and Andrea Bocelli; and sung at opera houses including the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, La Scala Milan, Vienna Staatsoper, and Opera Nationale de Paris.
Graves' fame does not stem only from her concerts and operatic roles; she had made efforts to branch out and draw nontraditional audiences into classical music. The PBS special Denyce Graves: A Cathedral Christmas was taped at Washington, D.C.'s National Cathedral, and airs every year on PBS during the Christmas season. She also frequently appears on the children's program Sesame Street. Crossover repertoire and spirituals make frequent appearances in her recitals. Whether she is performing a Scarlatti cantata, a popular song, or something in between, Graves' voice is marvelously expressive and vibrant. Intelligent musicianship and a mesmerizing stage presence (due at least partially to her stunning beauty) complete the package. Graves is married to lutenist David Perry, and resides in Leesburg, Virginia.
Andrew Lindemann Malone, All Music Guide