Recognized worldwide as one of today’s most exciting vocal stars, Denyce Graves continues to gather unparalleled popular and critical acclaim in performances on four continents. USA Today identifies her as “an operatic superstar of the 21st century,” and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclaims, “If the human voice has the power to move you, you will be touched by Denyce Graves.”
Her career has taken her to the world’s great opera houses and concert halls. The combination of her expressive, rich vocalism, elegant stage presence, and exciting theatrical abilities allows her to pursue a wide breadth of operatic portrayals and to delight audiences in concert and recital appearances. Denyce Graves has become particularly well-known to operatic audiences for her portrayals of the title roles in Carmen and Samson et Dalila. These signature roles have brought Ms. Graves to the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Royal Opera House – Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Arena di Verona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opernhaus Zürich, Teatro Real in Madrid, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Los Angeles Opera, and the Festival Maggio Musicale in Florence.
Ms. Graves appears continually on the stages of leading theaters in North America, Europe, and Asia. Highlights have included a Robert Lepage production of The Rake’s Progress at San Francisco Opera, the title role in Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner in the world premiere performances at Michigan Opera Theatre with further performances at Cincinnati Opera, Opera Carolina, and Opera Philadelphia, the role of Charlotte in Werther for Michigan Opera Theatre opposite Andrea Bocelli in his first staged operatic performances, and the role of Judith in a William Friedkin production of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle in her return to Los Angeles Opera; she also has sung Judith at the Washington National Opera and for Dallas Opera. Recent appearances include the world premieres of Doubt at Minnesota Opera and Champion at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, as well as the role debuts of Katisha in The Mikado for Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Herodias in Salome for Palm Beach Opera.
During the 2016–2017 season, Ms. Graves made her role debut as Erda in Wagner’s Das Rheingold with Minnesota Opera under the baton of Michael Christie, then returns to Washington National Opera for her acclaimed portrayal of Emelda Griffith in Champion, appears in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin as Filipyevna with Florida Grand Opera, as well as takes part in the world premiere of Daniel Sonenberg’s The Summer King, an opera based on the life of baseball legend Josh Gibson, with the Pittsburgh Opera. Over the course of the season, the distinguished mezzo-soprano sings on gala programs for Wolf Trap Opera, and a “Night of Stars” hosted by Michael Feinstein and featuring Alan Cumming and Patti Lupone for the 25th Anniversary of West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center.
Recent seasons have seen Ms. Graves return to stage of the Royal Opera House – Covent Garden, in Sir David McVicar’s new production of Andrea Chénier, conducted by Music Director Sir Antonio Pappano, as the role of Nettie Fowler in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel in a new Rob Ashford production given by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and with Kentucky Opera as Madeline Mitchell in Three Decembers, by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer. In the service of her country, Ms. Graves-Montgomery celebrated the bicentenary of the American National Anthem in a Star Spangled Spectacular for PBS Great Performances appearing with Kristin Chenoweth, Smokey Robinson, John Lithgow, and Marin Alsop leading the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Ms. Graves has worked with the finest symphony orchestras and conductors in a wide range of repertoire. She has performed with Riccardo Chailly, Myung-Whun Chung, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur, Riccardo Muti, and Mstislav Rostropovich. One of the music world’s most sought-after recitalists, Ms. Graves combines her expressive vocalism and exceptional gifts for communication with her dynamic stage presence. Her programs include classical repertoire of German lieder, French mélodie, and English art song, as well as the popular music of Broadway musicals, crossover and jazz together with American spirituals. For her New York recital debut, the New York Times wrote, “[h]er voice is dusky and earthy. She is a strikingly attractive stage presence and a communicative artist who had the audience with her through four encores.”
In 2001, Ms. Graves gave a series of appearances in response to the tragic events in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. Ms. Graves was invited by President Bush to participate in the National Prayer Service in Washington’s National Cathedral in which she sang “America, the Beautiful” and “The Lord’s Prayer.” This event was televised worldwide and was followed by Ms. Graves’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in a live musical program of “Healing through Gospel Music.” Ms. Graves appears regularly on radio and television as a musical performer, celebrity guest, and as the subject of documentaries and other special programming. In 1997, PBS Productions released a video and audio recording titled Denyce Graves: A Cathedral Christmas, featuring Ms. Graves in a program of Christmas music from Washington’s National Cathedral. This celebration of music including chorus and orchestra is shown each year on PBS during the Christmas season. Ms. Graves was seen on the Emmy-award winning BBC special “The Royal Opera House,” highlighting her debut performances there and she has been a frequent guest on television shows including Sesame Street, The Charlie Rose Show, and Larry King Live. In 1996 Ms. Graves was the subject of an Emmy-award winning profile on CBS’s 60 Minutes.
For nearly two decades, Ms. Graves has been a prolific recording artist. As an exclusive artist, Voce di Donna, a solo recording of opera arias, was released on RCA Red Seal. The Lost Days, a recording with jazz musicians of Latin songs in the Spanish and Portuguese languages, followed in January 2003. In June 2003, Church was released ‒ this recording, developed by Ms. Graves, brings together African-American divas from various forms of music, all of whom were first exposed to music through their upbringing in church. Participants recorded music of their choice and include Dr. Maya Angelou, Dionne Warwick, En Vogue, Patti LaBelle, and others. Other recordings of Ms. Graves include NPR Classics’ release of a recording of spirituals, Angels watching over me, featuring the mezzo-soprano in performance with her frequent partner, pianist Warren Jones, and an album of French arias, Héroïnes de l’Opéra romantique français, with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo under Marc Soustrot. Her full opera recordings include the Grande Vestale in La vestale, recorded live from La Scala with Riccardo Muti for Sony Classical; Queen Gertrude in Thomas’ Hamlet for EMI Classics; Maddalena in Rigoletto with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under James Levine; and Emilia in Otello with Plácido Domingo and the Opéra de Paris, Bastille Orchestra under Myung-Whun Chung, both for Deutsche Grammophon.
Ms. Graves is a native of Washington, D.C., where she attended the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts. She continued her education at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and the New England Conservatory. Ms. Graves is the recipient of many awards, including the Grand Prix du Concours International de Chant de Paris, the Eleanor Steber Music Award in the Opera Columbus Vocal Competition, and a Jacobson Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. In 1991, she received the Grand Prix Lyrique, awarded once every three years by the Association des amis de l’opéra de Monte-Carlo, and the Marian Anderson Award, presented to her by Miss Anderson. In addition she has received honorary doctorates from Oberlin College, the College of Saint Mary, Centre College, and the New England Conservatory. Ms. Graves’s dedication to the singers of the next generation continues to be an important part of her career, and recently she joined the voice faculty of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore.