American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves delights audiences on opera, concert, and recital stages across the globe. She attracted attention during her student days, graduating with a Bachelor of Music from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and an Artist Diploma from New England Conservatory of Music. Subsequently, she’s been awarded honorary degrees from Oberlin College Conservatory, New England Conservatory, James Madison University, Center College, William and Mary College, and the College of Saint Mary.
In her professional career, Graves has won many honors and prizes including Grand Prix du International de Chant de Paris, Grand Prix Lyrique l’ópera de Monte-Carlo, the Marian Anderson Award, Jacobson Study Grant through the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, and Eleanor Steber Music Award in the Opera Columbus Vocal Competition.
From Herodias (Salome), Baba the Turk (The Rake’s Progress), Judith (Bluebeard) to Charlotte (Werther), Dorabella (Così fan tutte), Giulietta (The Tales of Hoffmann), La Gran Vestale (Spontini), Frederica (Luisa Miller), and Erica (Vanessa | Barber) to Marguerite (La Damnation of Faust | Berlioz), Lucretia (Rape of Lucretia | Britten) to La Vida Breve (da Falla), Mere Marie (Dialogue of the Carmelites | Poulenc) to Perichole (La Perichole | Offenbach), Ulrica (Un Ballo), Azucena (Il Trovatore), The Old Lady (Candide | Bernstein), and Maria (Porgy & Bess | Gershwin), Graves stormed the world’s opera stages. The roles of Carmen and Delilah were her calling card roles at the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Teatro Colon Buenos Aires, San Francisco Opera, Opera National de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Washington Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Arena di Verona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro Real Madrid, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, and many others.
Composers, stage directors, opera companies have all collaborated with Graves in premieres of modern works including Margaret Garner (Danielpour), Marnie’s Mother (Marnie | Muhly), Dragon (Grendel | Goldenthal), Emelda Griffin (Champion | Blanchard), Mrs. Miller (Doubt | Cuomo), and Madeline (Three Decembers | Heggie), many of which have been broadcast. As in standard repertory, her performances in these new works proved her bona fides as a singing actress par excellence whose searing portrayals captivated audiences and critics alike.
Graves has recorded for BMG Classics | RCA Red Seal, NPR Classics, Sony Classical, EMI Classics, and Deutsche Grammophon. She was seen in the international Emmy-winning series The House in an episode about her debut performance at the Royal Opera House, and Denyce Graves Breaking the Rules (PBS) won an Emmy.
While Graves was building an international career as a leading mezzo-soprano, she worked consistently as master class clinician, competition judge, music and cultural ambassador, and teacher. The companies, music schools, and conservatories of music where she’s been a master class clinician include Levine School, Ellington School, WNO Young Artists, St. Louis Opera Artists, La Scala Young Artists, Metropolitan Opera Young Artists, Kennedy Center Young Artists, Wolf Trap Opera, West Palm Beach Opera, Boston University, Oberlin College Conservatory, USC, Manhattan School of Music, Peabody Conservatory, New England Conservatory, and the Universities of Maryland and Notre Dame.
President George W. Bush appointed Graves a U.S. Cultural Ambassador, and she has toured Greece, Germany, Venezuela, offering master classes and singing workshops. Her voice is an emotional talisman during America’s traumatic 9/11 period, she sang high-profile services and events that were broadcast worldwide. She’s been invited to the White House for singing performances and as guest at state dinners. Graves recently performed during the Capitol ceremony for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with whom she had a close friendship.
Recent recognitions include inductions into the Academy of Achievement and John P. McGovern Award Cosmos Club, both in 2019, and she received the Ambassador of Arts Award in 2018. Graves holds in highest esteem than the honors of permanent installation in both the Smithsonian Museum National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Museum National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Still balancing her busy performing career and institutional teaching obligation, Graves accepts a small number of career-ready singers in her private studio. As teacher-mentor, she prepares them for singing competitions and Young Artist Development Programs, as they launch their careers. Her students have made important debuts at the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Baltimore Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Opera Delaware, Virginia Opera, Sarasota Opera, Dallas Opera, Teatro Nuovo Berkshire Opera Festival, Opera Naples, Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, Amalfi Coast Music Festival, and Martina Arroyo Foundation; they’ve sung with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Queens Symphony Orchestra, St. Veronica Orchestra; and they have performed in venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center.
Since 2012, Graves has been Rosa Ponselle endowed chair at Peabody Conservatory of John Hopkins University.