Rivera, Graciela

Known as the “Nightingale” of Puerto Rico, Graciela Rivera was born on 17 April 1921 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Her family subsequently moved to Santurce, Puerto Rico, where Rivera studied at Central High School, appearing in various school operatic productions. She went on to sing in Puerto Rico after her graduation and then enrolled at the Julliard School of Music in New York City. In addition to voice, Rivera studied piano, music theory, harmony, counterpoint and composition; graduating in 1943.

Rivera’s professional career was launched in New York City in 1945 in the role of Adele in the musical “Rosalinda”, a Broadway version of “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss. She sang the same role in several of the great opera houses of France and Germany. Her operatic debut occurred later that same year as Rosina in “The Barber of Seville” by Rossini for the New Orleans Opera.

In the United States, Rivera made her Metropolitan Opera Debut as Lucia in ‘Lucia De Lammermoor’ in 1952, becoming the first Puerto Rican to sing a lead role at that prestigious venue. Her performances earned her the praise of the San Francisco Chronicle, which claimed Rivera was “the best thing that has come along in the coloratura line since Lily Pons”. The New York Times said “Her accuracy her sure intonation, her clear enunciation, her long sustained notes, and the grace of her phrasing.. marked the truly gifted singer” and called Rivera “ of the most accomplished singers on the American concert stage.” She has earned similar accolades from critics around the world.

In 1972 Rivera was apppointed Assistant Professor at the City University of New York where she taught the History of Puerto Rican Music and Chorus, Theory Of Music, and other music courses. She was also instrumental in presenting the opera “Nela” in 1974, by Puerto Rican composer Manuel B. González, as protagonist and artistic director.

Rivera’s career has spanned over 50 years of performances in opera, concerts, radio and television, in countries all around the world. She has performed under the direction of great conductors such as Oliviero De Fabritiis, Francesco Molinari Pradelli, and Antal Dorati, and sang with operatic luminaries including Giuseppe di Stefano, Ferrucio Tagliavini, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, and Robert Merril.

She has been the recipient of many honors by governmental, civic, cultural and educational institutions, recognizing her unique contributions to the world of opera and the music of Puerto Rico.