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Florence Quivar

Florence Quivar Singer

The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Singer
Countries United States of America
Occupations Singer Opera singer
Type Music
Gender female
Birth 3 March 1944
Education University of the Arts
The details

Florence Quivar (born March 3, 1944 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American operatic mezzo-soprano who was considered to be "one of the most prominent singers of her generation." She has variously been described as having a "rich, earthy sound and communicative presence" as "always reliable" and as "a distinguished singer, with a warm, rich voice and a dignified performing presence."

Early life and education

Quivar first became interested in music as a child. Her mother was a piano and voice teacher who also formed the gospel group the "Harmonic Choraliers". Quivar studied piano and voice with her mother as a child and began singing solos at church by age six. As a teenager she became interested in opera when she saw the Metropolitan Opera's touring production of Madama Butterfly to Philadelphia. Although she wanted to pursue a performing career, Quivar initially decided to pursue a career as an elementary school teacher and enrolled in a teachers' college. After just one day of classes, she realized that her true love was really music, and soon enrolled in the Philadelphia Academy of Music. After graduating, she entered the Juilliard School in 1975. Although she did not stay at the school very long, she did appear as Ježibaba and the Foreign Princess in Dvořák's Rusalka at the Juilliard Opera Center. She later studied privately with Marinka Gurewich in New York City.

Quivar returned to Philadelphia to study in master classes with Maureen Forrester where she began to focus in on lieder and oratorio repertoire. She made her professional recital debut in Philadelphia in 1976 as part of the Franklin Concert Series. That same year, she won the Baltimore Lyric Opera Competition and then returned to New York where she won the Marian Anderson Award. These competition wins drew the attention of noted impresario Harold Shaw and quickly led to engangements at the Metropolitan Opera and orchestras throughout the United States.


In 1976, Quivar portrayed Serena in the Cleveland Orchestra's production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. The concert was recorded and went on to win a Grammy Award for best opera recording. The following year Quivar made her debut at the Tanglewood Festival singing in the world premiere of Roger Sessions When Lilacs Last In The Dooryard Bloom'd with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She also made her Metropolitan Opera début on October 10, 1977 as Marina in Boris Godunov. She became a regular at the Met during the 1980s and 1990s, appearing as Jocasta in Oedipus rex, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri, Federica in Luisa Miller, Fidès in Le prophète, Frugola in Il tabarro, Mother Marie in Dialogues des Carmélites, Louis XV Chair in L'enfant et les sortilèges, the Princess in Suor Angelica, Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera, and Serena in Porgy and Bess. Her 101st and last performance at the Met was in a concert performance of Verdi's Requiem in 1997 where she sang the mezzo soprano solos under the baton of James Levine.

Quivar's other opera credits include performances at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Bavarian State Opera, La Scala, Teatro la Fenice, Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, Teatro Colón, Royal Opera at Covent Garden, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, and Los Angeles Opera among others. Her other roles includes Adalgisa in Norma, the title role in Carmen, Erda in Siegfried and Das Rheingold, Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde and Orpheus in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, the latter being a role with which she became particularly associated.

She has also performed with many of the world's premiere orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Berlin Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to name just a few.

Quivar has taken on the task of rescuing the works of forgotten composers, concentrating on those of African-American composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Her stated goal is "to compile a program of these neglected composers and someday record them." She has also performed in productions of African-American composers' works, as well as a 1981 revival of Virgil Thomson's Four Saints.

She has also been a champion of new music. In 1999 she performed the role of The Goddess of the Waters in the world premiere of Anthony Davis' opera Amistad at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She also premiered William Bolcom's song cycle From the Diary of Sally Hemmings at the Library of Congress in 2001. She has since performed the cycle in recitals throughout the United States in a tour with Harolyn Blackwell in 2002-2003.

Quivar remained active in opera performances until the mid-2000s, when she retired from the operatic stage. She remains active as a concert and recital performer.

Watch and listen

  • To hear Quivar sing Ulrica in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera watch here on YouTube
  • To hear Quivar sing with Luciano Pavarotti watch here on YouTube


Choral and symphonic

Year Title Genre Collaborators Label
1977 Roger Sessions: When Lilacs Last In The Dooryard Bloom'd classical Seiji Ozawa
Tanglewood Festival Chorus
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Esther Hinds (soprano)
Dominic Cossa (baritone)
New World Records
Rossini: Stabat Mater classical Thomas Schippers (conductor)
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Sung-Sook Lee (soprano)
Kenneth Riegel (tenor)
Paul Plishka (bass)
Vox Classic
1981 Mahler: Symphony no. 8 in E flat classical Seiji Ozawa
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Boston Boy Choir
Tanglewood Festival Chorus
Judith Blegen (soprano)
Faye Robinson (soprano)
Deborah Sasson (soprano)
Lorna Myers (mezzo-soprano)
Kenneth Riegel (tenor)
Benjamin Luxon (baritone)
Gwynne Howell (bass)
1985 Mendelssohn: Musik zu Ein Sommernachtstraum, op. 21 & op. 61 Ausschnitte classical James Levine (conductor)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Judith Blegen (soprano)
Deutsche Grammophon
1986 Berlioz: Roméo et Juliette classical Charles Dutoit (conductor)
Tudor Singers of Montreal
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Alberto Cupido (tenor)
Tom Krause (baritone)
1987 Handel: Messiah oratorio Andrew Davis (conductor)
Toronto Symphony
Toronto Mendelssohn Choir
Kathleen Battle (soprano)
Samuel Ramey (bass),
John Aler (tenor)
EMI Classics
Falla: El sombrero de tres picos (Three Cornered Hat) classical Jesús López-Cobos (conductor)
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
1989 Verdi: Requiem classical Carlo Maria Giulini (conductor)
Berlin Philharmonic
Simon Estes (bass-baritone)
Sharon Sweet (soprano)
Vinson Cole (tenor)
Deutsche Grammophon
Beethoven: Missa solemnis classical Helmuth Rilling (conductor)
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Pamela Coburn (soprano)
Aldo Baldin (tenor)
Andreas Schmidt (baritone)
Hänssler Classic
Messa Per Rossini classical Helmuth Rilling (conductor)
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Gabriela Beňačková (soprano)
Alexandru Agache (baritone)
Aage Haugland (bass)
James Wagner (Tenor)
Hänssler Classic
1992 Schoenberg: Gurre-Lieder oratorio Zubin Mehta (conductor)
New York Choral Artists
New York Philharmonic
Eva Marton (soprano)
Gary Lakes (tenor)
Jon Garrison (tenor)
John Cheek (bass-baritone)
Hans Hotter (bass-baritone)
1993 Mahler: Symphony No. 3 classical Zubin Mehta (conductor)
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Sony Classical
1994 Szymanowski: Stabat Mater Litany to the Virgin Mary ; Symphony no. 3 classical Sir Simon Rattle (conductor)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Iwona Sobotka (soprano)
John Connell (bass)
Elzbieta Szmytka (soprano)
EMI Classics
Mahler: Symphony no. 2; Symphony No. 5 classical Zubin Mehta (conductor)
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
Nancy Gustafson (soprano)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 classical André Previn (conductor)
Ambrosian Singers
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Roberta Alexander (soprano)
Gary Lakes (tenor)
Paul Plishka (baritone)
RCA Victor
1995 Mendelssohn: Elijah oratorio Robert Shaw (conductor)
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Barbara Bonney (soprano)
Jerry Hadley (tenor)
Thomas Hampson (baritone)

Opera recordings

Year Title Role Cast Label
1976 Gershwin: Porgy and Bess
(Grammy Award winner)
Serena Lorin Maazel (conductor)
Cleveland Orchestra
Willard White (Porgy)
Leona Mitchell (Bess)
McHenry Boatwright (Crown)
François Clemmons (Sporting Life)
Barbara Hendricks (Clara)
Barbara Conrad (Maria)
Arthur Thompson (Robbins)
London Records
1982 Thomson: Four Saints in Three Acts St Teresa II Joel Thome (conductor)
Orchestra of Our Time
Betty Allen (Commère)
Benjamin Matthews (Compère)
Arthur Thompson (St. Ignatius)
Clamma Dale (St. Teresa I)
William Brown (St. Chavez)
Gwendolyn Bradley (St. Settlement)
1989 Verdi: Un ballo in maschera Ulrica Herbert von Karajan
Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Josephine Barstow (Amelia)
Plácido Domingo (Riccardo)
Sumi Jo (Oscar)
Leo Nucci (Count Anckarström)
Jean-Luc Chaignaud (Christian Sailor)
Goran Simic (1st Noble)
Kurt Rydl (2nd Noble)
Wolfgang Witte (Judge)
Adolf Tomaschek (Servant to Amelia)
Deutsche Grammophon
1991 Verdi: Un ballo in maschera (DVD) Ulrica James Levine
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Aprile Millo (Amelia)
Luciano Pavarotti (Riccardo)
Harolyn Blackwell (Oscar)
Leo Nucci (Count Anckarström)
Gordon Hawkins (Christian)
Terry Cook (Count de Horn)
Jeffrey Wells (Count Ribbing)
Charles Anthony (Judge)
Richard Fracker (Servant to Amelia)
Deutsche Grammophon
1992 Verdi: Luisa Miller Federica James Levine (conductor)
Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Plácido Domingo (Rodolfo)
Vladimir Chernov (Miller)
Aprile Millo (Luisa)
Wendy White (Laura)
Jan-Hendrik Rootering (Walter)
1993 Stravinsky:Oedipus rex Jocasta James Levine (conductor)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Philip Langridge (Oedipus)
James Morris (Creon)
Jan-Hendrik Rootering (Teiresias)
Donald Kaasch (Shepherd)
Jules Bastin (Messenger)
Deutsche Grammophon

Solo recordings

Year Title Genre Collaborators Label
1990 Ride on, King Jesus! Traditional Spirituals Joseph Joubert (piano)
Larry Woodard (piano)
Boys Choir of Harlem
EMI Records

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