Grace Bumbry

Alice Lechner


by Alice Lechner
May 18, 2023
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of opera charm magazine


To strive for excellence, that’s the answer. If you strive for excellence, that means that you are determined. You will find a way to get to your goal, even if it means having to turn down some really great offers. You have to live with that, as you have to live with yourself.” (Grace Bumbry)

Born on January 4th, 1937, in St. Louis, Missouri, Grace Bumbry is known for her outstanding renditions of both mezzosoprano and soprano roles and her remarkable stage presence. Bumbry trained in classical piano beginning at age 7 but determined she would become a singer after seeing Marian Anderson in a concert.

Encouraged by all who knew her singing, Grace, age 16, won first prize in a local radio contest, which awarded her the opportunity to appear on the then famous “Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout Show”, where she sang “O Don Fatale” from Verdi’s Don Carlo.

Grace then began her studies at the Boston University and then at the Northwestern University where she met the lady who would change her life forever. Lotte Lehmann, while giving a masterclass, heard her and invited her to Santa Barbara, California to study at the “Music Academy of the West”, where she was shaped into one of the music world’s rare jewels.

Through the influence of Jacqueline Kennedy and the American Embassy in Paris, Bumbry was granted an audition at the Paris Opera, where she was immediately employed. Bumbry made her professional debut in 1960 at the Paris Opera, where she gained recognition for her portrayal of Amneris in Verdi’s Aida. She was the first person of colour to sing at the house.

Bumbry made her debut at the Royal Opera House in London in 1963 as Eboli in Don Carlo, alongside Boris Christoff as the king and Tito Gobbi as Posa, in a 1958 production by Luchino Visconti. In 1964, she made her debut at the Vienna State Opera as Santuzza in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, and at the Salzburg Festival as Verdi’s Lady Macbeth, opposite Fischer-Dieskau’s Macbeth. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1965, again as Eboli.

During her mezzosoprano career, she sang Amneris in Aida, Eboli in Don Carlo, Azucena in Il Trovatore, Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, the title role in Carmen, Dalila in Samson et Dalilia, Orfeo in Orfeo et Eurydice, Adalgisa in Norma, Selika in L’Africaine, the title role in Hérodiade and Didon in Les Troyens, to name a few.

In the 1970s, Bumbry, having recorded many soprano arias, began taking on soprano roles on stage. The first official soprano role was the title role in Salome by Richard Strauss at the Royal Opera House in 1970. She then appeared for the first time as Puccini’s Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera in 1971, and then at La Scala in 1974. Later roles at the Metropolitan Opera included Leonora in both Il trovatore and La forza del destino and Bess in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

As a dramatic soprano she sang the title role in Salome, Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, Abigaille in Nabucco, the title roles in Medea, La Vestale, Jenufa, La Gioconda, Tosca, and Turandot, Ariane in Ariane et Barbe-bleu, Leonora in Il Trovatore and in La Forza del Destino,and Cassandra in Les Troyens with the Paris Opera in its full 5 and ½ hour presentation. She gave another tour de force performance at Covent Garden when she sang Norma and Adalgisa in the same production of Norma within a period of two weeks.

After Bumbry gave up mezzosoprano roles, with the exception of Princess Eboli, she was often asked how she reconciles mixing the repertoire of the two vocal categories. Her answer, “As long as I have the ability from nature, I simply do what many others in the 19th century did before me. I don’t think singers like Grisi, Pasta, Malibran and some others ever worried about belonging to a specific category”, has not changed.

Making headlines all over the world, she helped to define the word DIVA with her art and style. Of course, let us not forget the international jet-setter, Grace, who became the owner of the second ever made Lamborghini, furs, designer gowns made by Yves Saint Laurent, Heinz Riva and Bill Blass, and jewels of the most exquisite quality.

In 2009 she founded The Grace Bumbry Vocal and Opera Academy in Berlin, where she collaborated with the University of Arts, in a masterclass atmosphere for voice and role study and preparation designed for the ‘big voice’. These classes were given twice a year in Berlin at the Universität der Künste.

On October 20th, 2022, Bumbry was on a flight from Vienna to New York when she had a stroke. Her health declined over the following months, and she died from related complications at a hospital in Vienna on May 7th, 2023, at age 86.


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Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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