In this “Conversation with the Artist” we honor George Shirley the first African American operatic tenor to perform with the Metropolitan Opera and bestow upon him the 2022 GENVAS Icon of the Arts Award. In this intimate setting patrons will enjoy an interactive conversation with Mr. Shirley moderated by our Artistic Director, William Riddle and special guest emcee James Barbato, the Palm Beach Opera’s Director of Artistic Administration. The evening features rare videos, photos, and audios taken over Shirley’s lifetime and career.
Mr. Shirley first public opera performance, Die Fledermaus, took place in 1959. A year later, George won the American Opera Auditions and was offered the role of Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme in Milan, Italy. This was followed in 1961 by an offer from the Metropolitan Opera after winning first prize in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions where he performed Nessun Dorma. George performed 28 major roles in 26 operas during his 11 seasons with the Met, appearing more often than any other tenor. With a voice praised for its richness and flexibility, he was in demand by major opera houses in the US and internationally.
Mr. Shirley has concertized worldwide, and he has sung with many of the world’s great orchestras and conductors including the London Symphony with Maazel, Boston Symphony with Ozawa, Chicago Symphony with Solti, New York Philharmonic with Bernstein and La Scala Orchestra with von Karajan. He has recorded for numerous record labels and won a Grammy Award in 1968 for his role (Ferrando) in the prize-winning recording of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte. Today, he is the Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Emeritus Professor of Voice at the University of Michigan, Mr. Shirley, known as one of opera’s, most versatile tenors, has enjoyed a trail blazing international career in music.