Anthony Dean Griffey (born February 12 in High Point, North Carolina) is an American opera singer. With his lyric tenor voice, Griffey has become a regular presence on the stages of opera houses and concert halls around the world. Griffey has been noted for his outstanding acting talent in addition to his remarkable voice. 2007 he starred in The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny at the Los Angeles Opera, the recording of which won two Grammy Awards. In the 2005 edition of Musical America Griffey was cited as one of twelve young singers of distinction. Griffey was honored as an inductee into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2011. In his hometown of High Point, Griffey was presented with the key to the city and it was declared that December 22 will henceforth be known as 'Anthony Dean Griffey Day.'
With the rare combination of a light, lyric timbre and considerable vocal heft, Griffey's voice has been cited as somewhat of an anomaly and has attracted the attention of many prominent composers and conductors. Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe has said: "Griffey has voice, technique, musicianship, diction, and poetry in his soul."
Anthony Dean Griffey was born in High Point, North Carolina to a family of little means. Both his parents worked in the local furniture factories. He first began singing at the age of five in his local church. He started to study voice in high school, and subsequently attended Wingate University as a music major, with the intention of becoming a music minister (a clergy position which oversees all musical aspects of a church). At the encouragement of his teachers at Wingate, Griffey auditioned successfully for the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he studied with John Maloy. Griffey double majored in vocal performance and literature, receiving a Master's of Music/Performer's Certificate. After completing his studies at Eastman, he was recommended by Rita Shane and Renee Fleming to audition at The Juilliard School for Beverley Peck Johnson, who would become Griffey's teacher and mentor until her death in 2001. Shortly after entering Juilliard he auditioned for James Levine and joined the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist's program.
While in the Lindemann program he made his debut at the Met in 1995 playing the First Knight in Parsifal. From 1995 to 2003 he continued to regularly appear in supporting roles at the Met, in such operas as Aida, Manon, Billy Budd, Die Zauberflote, Susannah, Die Fliegende Hollander, The Queen of Spades, Boris Godunov, Salome, Tristan und Isolde, and Don Carlo.
Griffey's first major career breakthrough came in 1996 when, after auditioning for the role of Bob Boles in a student production of Peter Grimes at Tanglewood Festival, the conductor, Seiji Ozawa, was so impressed by his singing that he offered him the title role instead. Griffey later reprised this role in 1998 at the Metropolitan Opera, filling in for an indisposed Chris Merritt. Grimes would become Griffey's signature role, which he has performed to critical acclaim in Glyndebourne, Opera Bastille, Japan, San Diego, and Santa Fe, culminating In 2008 when the Metropolitan Opera mounted a new production of Grimes starring Griffey. Of the latter production, Justin Davidson of New York Magazine called Griffey's interpretation "one of the most richly textured and subtle characters to dominate the Met's vast stage in a long time."
Ozawa would become a major figure in Griffey's career, inviting him to sing the tenor solo in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, as well as featuring him in a recording of the War Requiem with the Saito Kinen Orchestra. He also featured Griffey in several more performances of Peter Grimes, stating: "I told my manager, if I go anywhere in the world to do Peter Grimes, I want Tony to come with me."
In 1997, Griffey took on a role which would also become one of his signatures: Lennie in Carlisle Floyd's Of Mice and Men, at Glimmerglass Festival. He has received widespread acclaim for his interpretation of this role, with Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times raving: "If there were an Academy Award for Opera, Griffey would have won it for his performance as the feeble-minded Lennie." Griffey has performed the role of Lennie to great success places such as Bregenz, the New York City Opera, the Houston Grand Opera (where he also recorded it) and for Opera Australia at Sydney and Melbourne. For his performances as Lennie in Australia, the 2012 Green Room Awards presented Griffey with the title of best Principal Male Opera performance. Griffey was also presented with the 2012 Helpmann Award for Best Male Opera Performance for his appearances as Lennie in Australia.
Other roles which Griffey has performed successfully are Mozart's Idomeneo (at Mostly Mozart festival) Florestan in Beethoven's Fidelio (Opera Company of Philadelphia and the Florentine Opera), Male Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia at Houston Grand Opera, and the title role in Robert Kurka's The Good Soldier Schweik at Glimmerglass Festival
In 2007 he starred as Jimmy Mahoney in Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with the Los Angeles Opera. Griffey's performance was widely acclaimed, with Opera News describing his Jimmy as: "...a sensation. His well-knit voice, ranging from a hefty lower range to a clarion top, had no need for the production's microphones. His way with "When the sky turns brighter" was particularly haunting, evoking pathos on the scale of 'E lucevan le stelle.'" This production was recorded on DVD, and subsequently won the 2009 Grammy Awards for "Best Classical Album" and "Best Opera Recording."
Griffey is an avid recitalist, championing English-language vocal literature. At his New York recital debut at Zankel Hall, he premiered a new song cycle by Andre Previn, accompanied by the composer himself. Of this recital, Peter G. Davis of New York Magazine remarked: "Griffey sang everything utterly naturally, devoid of artifice yet still full of character and nuance, whether probing the bitterness of Vaughan Williams’s Shropshire lad or slyly enumerating the treasures of Copland’s chortling farmer who "'bought me a cat'..... for now savor the moment and his career choices. This is a big vocal talent." Previn, who has been a champion of Griffey since first hearing him in his 1996 Tanglewood Peter Grimes, also selected Griffey to perform and record the role of Mitch in his opera version of A Streetcar Named Desire at the San Francisco Opera.
Griffey is also a frequent performer of concert repertoire, and has appeared with many of the world's leading orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, London Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, London Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, St. Luke's Chamber Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, RAI National Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Vara Radio Orchestra - Amsterdam, The Halle, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Orquesta Nacional de España, and the Berlin Philharmonic, and has collaborated with such prominent conductors as: James Levine, Jaap van Zweden, David Zinman, Patrick Summers, Mark Wigglesworth, Michael Tilson Thomas, Sir Andrew Davis, Robert Spano, Andreas Delfs, Mark Elder, Naeme Jarvi, Julius Rudel, Mariss Jansons, Edo de Waart, Sir Neville Marriner, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Alan Gilbert, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, Steuart Bedford, Donald Runnicles, Stephane Deneve, Sir Colin Davis, Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, James Conlon, Gerard Schwarz, and Charles Dutoit.
Griffey is a frequent guest at the world's most prominent festivals including the BBC Proms, Saito Kinen Festival, Edinburgh Festival, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Aspen Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, Lanaudiere Festival, Chamber Music Festival Northwest, Marlboro Music School and Festival, Grand Teton's Festival, and the Eastern Music Festival.
Since the start of his career Griffey has taken an active role in many charitable efforts, advocating for arts programs in the Guilford County Public Schools, raising money for the Mental Health Association as well as giving benefit concerts for the "Open Door Shelter" for which Griffey has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the homeless in his hometown. He is also actively involved with the High Point Area Arts Council.
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