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Gloria Davy, 81, soprano of 20th-century music

Gloria Davy as Nedda in the opera “Pagliacci.”Metropolitan Opera Archives

NEW YORK — Gloria Davy, a Brooklyn-born soprano who was the first African-American to sing “Aida” with the Metropolitan Opera, died Nov. 28 in Geneva. She was 81.

Her death, after a long illness, was confirmed by soprano Martina Arroyo, a friend.

A lirico-spinto (with a high voice that is darker and more forceful than a lyric soprano’s), Ms. Davy performed mainly in Europe from the 1960s onward. She was equally, if not better, known as a recitalist.

In particular, she was an interpreter of 20th-century music, including the work of Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten, and Paul Hindemith.

When Ms. Davy first sang at the Met, she was only the fourth African-American to appear there.


For decades, Ms. Davy made her home in Geneva, ­returning to the United States periodically to perform and teach. She was on the faculty of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University from 1984 to 1997.

Ms. Davy was married several times. She leaves a son, Jean-Marc Penningsfeld.

Among her recordings are albums of music by Paul Bowles and Karlheinz Stockhausen and an ­album of spirituals.

Ms. Davy took unhesitatingly to the operatic life. ‘‘For sheer joy of singing,’’ she said in an interview with Opera News in 1958, ‘‘there’s nothing like ­opera.’’