Artist Profile: Tenor James McCracken, One of the America’s Great Dramatic Voices

By David Salazar

James McCracken was one of the most essential American dramatic tenors of all time.

Born on Dec. 16, 1926, McCracken started his musical experiences as a child in a church choir. During the Second World War, he sang in the Blue Jacket Choir in the U.S. Navy.

His professional debut came at the Central City Opera in 1952 as Rodolfo in “La Bohème.” He then got a chance to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in minor roles between 1953 and 1957. However, he headed to Europe to build his career, debuting in Vienna and Zurich thereafter.

When he returned to the Met in 1963 in the title role of “Otello,” he was officially a star at the Met and would remain so until he retired in the mid-1980s.

He left behind many recordings before his passing on April 29, 1988.

Signature Role

While he sang a wide range of heavy tenor roles, McCracken’s signature role was “Otello.” He stepped in for Mario Del Monaco in the role at The Royal Opera House and performed it prominently throughout the remainder of his career. In sum, he appeared in the opera at the Metropolitan Opera 60 times and recorded the opera with Sir James Barbirolli and Dame Gwyneth Jones.

Read More on McCracken

4 Operas and Roles He Sang At the Met

Watch and Listen

Here is a recording of numerous arias.

Here he is in a recording of “Fidelio” with Birgit Nilsson.


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