Episode 169. Grace Bumbry

Episode 169. Grace Bumbry



Though the great diva Grace Bumbry has often been featured on Countermelody, I have not yet done a full episode on this incomparable artist. Today’s episode seeks to remedy that, and to celebrate a singer whose contribution and influence extends back many decades and continues to this very day. Normally when I consider an artist so well-renowned, I try to offer a perspective that sheds different light on that singer. So today’s Bumbry celebration considers three aspects of her artistry that have received somewhat less attention. While her successes in a wide range of mezzo soprano repertoire are well-known and well-documented, her soprano assumptions have been somewhat more controversial. I highlight numerous scenes and arias, including from Macbeth, Salome, Turandot, and Nabucco, in both live and studio performances, that shed light on the enormous prowess and fearlessness with which she confronted these roles. Alongside such larger-than-life impersonations are Bumbry’s intimate and detailed performances as a Lieder singer, a tribute to her training under that matchless singer and teacher Lotte Lehmann, with whom Bumbry studied at the Music Academy of the West. Recordings of art song by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Strauss, Liszt, and Berlioz, made over the course of 45 years are also a testament to Bumbry’s vocal longevity and technical prowess. In recent years, Grace Bumbry has devoted her time to the care, nurturing, and training of young singers under the aegis of a program she has named “The Bumbry Way.” The episode closes with a definitive performance of the song “My Way,” which incorporates and encapsulates all the colors of this extraordinary singer in all her fearlessness, self-assurance, determination, vulnerability, and strength. Evviva “The Bumbry Way!”


Traditional Spiritual: This Little Light of Mine. Grace Bumbry [live Amsterdam 04.VII.65]

Grace Bumbry and Lotte Lehmann

Franz Schubert, Johann Jacobi: Litanei auf das Fest Allerseelen, D. 343. Grace Bumbry, Erik Werba [1962]

Giuseppe Verdi, Francesco Maria Piave, Andrea Maffei [after William Shakespeare]: Vieni, t’affretta (Macbeth). Grace Bumbry [BBC Music on 2, first telecast 06.VI.71]]

Robert Schumann, Julius Mosen: Der Nußbaum (Myrthen, Op. 25/3. Grace Bumbry, Helmut Deutsch [live Paris 05.V.2001]

Amilcare Ponchielli, Arrigo Boito [as Tobia Gorrio] [after Victor Hugo]: L’amo come il fulgor del creato (La Gioconda). Grace Bumbry, Shirley Verrett, Michelangelo Veltri, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden [live London 22.IV.84]

Umberto Balsamo, Norman Newell: Natalie. Grace Bumbry, Roger Webb and His Orchestra [1975]

Giuseppe Verdi, Temistocle Solera: Prode guerrier (Nabucco). Grace Bumbry, Nello Santi, Orchestre du Théatre National de l’Opéra de Paris [live Paris 1979]

Jules Massenet, Louis Gallet, Édouard Blau, Adolphe d’Ennery [after Pierre Corneille]: Pleurez, mes yeux! (Le Cid). Grace Bumbry, Stefan Soltesz, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart [1984]

Gustave Charpentier, Saint-Pol-Roux: Depuis le jour (Louise). Grace Bumbry, Stefan Soltesz, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart [1984]

Richard Strauss, Oscar Wilde [translated by Hedwig Lachmann]: Jokanaan! Ich bin verliebt in deinem Leib (Salome). Grace Bumbry, Norman Bailey, Berislav Klobučar, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra [live Chicago 27.IX.78]

Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Adami, Renato Simoni [after Carlo Gozzi]: In questa reggia (Turandot). Grace Bumbry, Kenneth Collins, John Fiore, Opera Australia Orchestra [live Sydney 1991]

Robert Schumann, Friedrich Rückert: Widmung (Myrthen, Op 25/1). Grace Bumbry, Leonard Hokanson [1971]

Franz Schubert, Johann Mayrhofer: Fahrt zum Hades, D. 526. Grace Bumbry, Sebastian Peschko [1964]

Franz Schubert, Johann Gabriel Seidl: Die Männer sind méchant!, D. 866/3. Grace Bumbry, Helmut Deutsch [live Paris 05.V.2001]

Johannes Brahms, Hermann Allmers: Feldeinsamkeit, Op. 86/2. Grace Bumbry, Leonard Hokanson [1971]

Johannes Brahms, Paul Fleming: O liebliche Wangen, Op 47/4. Grace Bumbry, Beaumont Glass [live Salzburg 28.VII.65]

Richard Strauss, Detlev von Liliencron: Sehnsucht, Op 33/2. Grace Bumbry, Helmut Deutsch [live Paris 05.V.2001]

Franz Liszt, Victor Hugo: Ô quand je dors. Grace Bumbry, Helmut Deutsch [live Châtelet 05.V.2001]

Hector Berlioz, Théophile Gautier: Le spectre de la rose (Les nuits d’été, Op. 7/2). Grace Bumbry, Alexander Schmalcz [live Paris 23.V.07]

Jacques Revaux, Claude François, Gilles Thibault [English lyrics by Paul Anka], arr. Andrew White: My Way. Grace Bumbry [1995]

2 thoughts on “Episode 169. Grace Bumbry”


    1. Thank you for listening, John! It is such a joy to celebrate this great artist on her birthday! Long may she thrive!

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