The Role of a Lifetime

by Editorial

A native Washingtonian returns to her favorite opera company and her most beloved character

By Denyce Graves

Graves as Carmen in the “Habanera” scene.

Graves as Carmen in the “Habanera” scene.

Washington-born and internationally-acclaimed mezzo soprano Denyce Graves returns to the Kennedy Center November 8-16 to reprise the character of Carmen, the hedonistic gypsy who’s tragic love affair with the jealous Don José forms the plot of Georges Bizet’s eponymous opera. Graves reflects on her return to Washington, her feelings about the fiery heroine’s character, and her unique passion for this classic operatic work.

I’ve had the great privilege to perform in some of the world’s prestigious opera houses, and I’m often asked, “Where is your favorite place to sing?” My answer is always the same: “The Washington National Opera.” Now, it’s true that Washington is my hometown; I began singing here in churches and later in the Duke Ellington Performing Arts School, so I am a bit biased. But there is no place that is as warm and accepting as Washington – it touches me in my very center. Washington has given me so much, and each homecoming is more delicious than the last.

I have been engaged many times by WNO in such roles as Maddalena in Rigoletto, Delilah in Samson and Delilah, Nicklausse in The Tales of Hoffmann, and most recently as Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle. But like my hometown, it is the role of Carmen that I return to again and again.

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