Donald Gramm


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(b Milwaukee, 26 Feb 1927; d New York, 2 June 1983). American bass-baritone. He studied at the Wisconsin College-Conservatory of Music (1935–44) and at 15 took singing lessons with George Graham. His opera début was in Lucia di Lammermoor at the 8th Street Theater of Chicago when he was 17. Formal study followed at the Chicago Musical College (1944) and later with Martial Singher at the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara. His New York début was with the Little Orchestra Society (L'enfance du Christ, 1951). He became a member of the New York City Opera the following year (Colline in La bohème), and began a long, mutually beneficial relationship with Sarah Caldwell's Boston Opera in 1958. A singer of extraordinary versatility and intelligence, Gramm sang with every leading company in the USA and at Spoleto, Aix-en-Province and Glyndebourne (Nick Shadow, 1975; Falstaff, 1976). He participated in the American premières of Carl Orff's Der Mond, Bohuslav Martinů's The Marriage, Darius Milhaud's Medée, Frank Martin's Der Sturm, Benjamin Britten's Gloriana and Owen Wingrave, Alban Berg's Lulu, Arnold Schoenberg's Moses und Aron and Jakobsleiter, Giuseppe Verdi's Don Carlos in the original French version, and Vittorio Giannini's The Taming of the Shrew, among others. More traditional roles included Méphistophélès, Figaro and Ochs. He was also active in the concert hall and particularly adept in the music of J.S. Bach and Berg. Gramm's voice was not particularly large, but he used it with uncommon sensitivity to nuance, and fidelity to the composer's instructions. He was an elegant stylist, and a remarkably convincing actor. In 1981 he ventured into stage direction with Figaro at Wolf Trap.

From The Grove Book of Opera Singers in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Opera.

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