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Mon, 01.04.1937

Grace Bumbry, Opera Singer born

Grace Bumbry

This date celebrates the birth of Grace Bumbry, a Black opera singer, in 1937.

She was born Grace Ann Bumbry in St. Louis, Missouri. She studied music at Boston University, Northwestern University, and the Music Academy of the West. She has performed as both a soprano and a mezzo-soprano. While at Northwestern, she became the student and protégé of Lotte Lehmann, a famous German-born opera diva.

Bumbry made her operatic debut in 1960 with the Paris Opera Company as Amneris in Verdi's "Aïda." In 1961, she became the first Black woman to sing the role of Venus in Richard Wagner's "Tannhäuser" at the Wagner Bayreuth Festival.

She made her United States debut in the same role at the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1963. She also has played leading roles in Verdi's "Macbeth," Strauss's "Salome," and Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess." Bumbry has also performed as a concert artist, and her voice has been praised for its wide range and rich color.

The celebrated singer, who led an illustrious, jet-setting career, and broke the color barrier as the first black artist to perform at Germany's Bayreuth Festival.  She suffered an ischemic stroke in 2022, and died on May 7 2023 in a Vienna hospital, according to her publicist.  Opera star Grace Bumbry was 86.

To Become a Musician or Singer




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by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Copyright 1993, TimeLife Inc.

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