Gloria Davy, a Brooklyn-born soprano who was the first African-American to sing Aida with the Metropolitan Opera, died on Nov. 28 in Geneva. She was 81.
Her death, after a long illness, was confirmed by the soprano Martina Arroyo, a longtime friend.
A lirico-spinto (the term denotes 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.
Though she was praised by critics for the beauty of her voice, the sensitivity of her musicianship and the perfection of her pianissimos — the elusive art of attaining maximum audibility at minimum volume — Ms. Davy sang with the Met just 15 times over four seasons, from her debut in the title role of Verdi’s “Aida,” opposite Leonard Warren, in 1958 to her final performance, as Leonora in Verdi’s “Trovatore,” opposite Giulio Gari, in 1961. She also sang Pamina in Mozart’s “Magic Flute” and Nedda in Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” with the company. In concert, she appeared with the New York Philharmonic and at Carnegie Hall and Town Hall in New York.
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