MN Opera Feature: Denyce Graves

Minnesota Opera
2 min readApr 26, 2022
Denyce Graves as Carmen in the 1991 production. Standing proudly in a long yellow dress in front of soldiers.
Denyce Graves as Carmen 1991

“You cannot think about Carmen at Minnesota Opera without thinking about Denyce Graves,” said Ryan Taylor, President and General Director at MN Opera. Recognized worldwide as one of today’s most exciting vocal stars, Denyce Graves takes her place as Stage Director for MN Opera’s Carmen after nearly four decades of experience performing the title role in Bizet’s thrilling tale.

“After 37 years of being on stage and after doing so many Carmens, I always said to myself, ‘Someday, maybe someday,’” expressed Graves. Her critically acclaimed career has taken her across four continents and to some of the world’s greatest opera houses and concert halls — and now she’s back at Minnesota Opera directing the show that launched her career all those years ago.

Graves explains, “This is certainly broadening me and stretching me in ways that are brand new and it’s a real discovery. I still think that I always will be a singer and that will be at the core of who I am, but I understand more about the flow of the show. You can’t just let a moment stop so you can have a ‘diva moment’ but that there’s an actual whole big picture that needs to be taken into consideration.”

Three past and present Carmens standing together. Zoie Reams (Carmen), Denyce Graves (Stage Director), Maya Lahyani (Carmen)
From left to right: Zoie Reams (Carmen), Denyce Graves (Stage Director), Maya Lahyani (Carmen)

Graves’ dedication to the singers of the next generation continues to be an important part of her career. Serving as a voice faculty member at the Peabody Institute and a distinguished visiting faculty member at The Juilliard School, she has become a great leader in shaping the voices of tomorrow.

“I am extremely sympathetic to the singers. I’m always thinking from that perspective,” says Graves. “It’s been such an incredible learning experience and I’m learning so much every day — to feel what it’s like to be on the other side and be responsible of the whole gigantic picture of it.”

Described by Taylor as a “superstar mezzo-soprano and now a superstar director,” Graves’ work is a culmination of almost four decades of unparalleled talent. Now, she’s bringing that talent from the stage to the director’s chair.