Artist Profile: Mezzo-Soprano Florence Quivar, a Champion Of All Music

By David Salazar

Mezzo-soprano Florence Quivar was born on March 3, 1944 and would become “one of the most prominent singers of her generation.”

Music became a part of her life early on as her mother was a piano and voice teacher who formed the gospel group “Harmonic Choraliers.” The young mezzo would learn piano and voice and sang solos in church by the age of six. Though she grew interested in opera as a teenager, Quivar set off to study to become an elementary school teacher. However, she wound up enrolling at the Philadelphia Academy of Music and then entered Juilliard School in 1975. She didn’t remain there for long but continued studying privately.

Her big breakout year came in 1976 when she not only made her professional recital debut in Philadelphia, but also won the Baltimore Lyric Opera Competition and the Marian Anderson Award. She was also invited to appear in the Cleveland Orchestra’s production of “Porgy and Bess,” which was recorded and wound up winning a Grammy Award.

From there she made her Tanglewood Festival debut and in 1977, she made her Met Opera debut; she would appear with the company for over 100 performances across the ensuing decades.

She also appeared all over the world at such houses as the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro alla Scala, Teatro La fenice, Teatro Colón, Houston Grand Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Seattle Opera, and Los Angeles Opera.

Signature Roles

She portrayed a wide range of roles from the standard repertory, though he was also a champion of new music and also rescued the operas of forgotten composers; she famously stated that her intent was “to compile a program of these neglected composers and someday record them.” She famously revived Virgil Thomson’s “Four Saints” in 1981. Other composers that she championed included William Bolcom and Anthony Davis, among others.

In more standard repertory, she performed that role of Ulrica regularly in “Un Ballo in Maschera” and recorded it twice. She was also associated with the role of Orfeo in Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice.”

Watch and Listen

Here she stars in a recording of “Porgy and Bess.”

And here is a live recital from 1990.


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