Gloria Davy was a soprano singer who found fame in both the states and internationally at a time when Blacks in opera was still a rarity. She is the first African-American singer to perform “Aida” in the lead role at the Metropolitan Opera.
Davy was born on this day in 1931 in Brooklyn, New York. She attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, graduating in 1952. The following year, she was awarded the Marian Anderson Award for her vocal talents, which was given annually to promising singers until it was ended due to lack of funding in 1976. (It has since been revived but is awarded to entertainers across various genres.)
After graduating from the Juilliard School, Davy took over for opera great Leontyne Price in an international tour of “Porgy and Bess” in 1954. In 1958, she sang in a production of “Aida” at the Met, just the fourth Black singer to do so at the time. Davy married Swiss stockbroker Herman Penningsfield and relocated to Geneva, resuming and maintaining her career across Europe but not touring much in the States.
Davy remained in Geneva for the remainder of her career and life, but did work for several years as a vocal educator and instructor at Indiana University. According to the New York Times, she married several times and had one son, Jean-Paul Penningsfield.
She passed in 2012 at the age of 82.
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