Ms. Clarity James


Professor Emeritus, Contralto

Clarity James made her Vienna Staatsoper debut in Leonard Bernstein's A Quiet Place (also recording it with Maestro Bernstein on Deutsche Grammophon) as "Mrs. Doc," the role she created in that opera's world premiere in Houston. Her European debut was with the Netherlands Opera as "Azucena" in Il Trovatore (recorded on the Gala GL label).

Seattle Opera audiences have heard her performances of "Erda," both in Das Rheingold and Siegfried, in the François Rochaix production of The Ring, preceded by her first appearance with the Seattle Opera as "Augusta" in The Ballad Of Baby Doe, returning later as "Kostelnicka" in Jenufa.

Her many return engagements with The Santa Fe Opera included new productions of the Strauss operas, Die Liebe Der Danae, Daphne and Aegyptiche Helena as well as The Beggar's Opera and The Sorrows of Young Werther. She portrayed the outrageous "Mother Goose" in The Rake's Progress and the "Nurse" in L'Incoronazione Di Poppea. Her "Lady Toodles" in the American premier of Henze's The English Cat was preceded by another American premiere there in Penderecki's The Black Mask as well as the Nikolaus Lehnhoff production of Der Fliegende Hollaender, an opera she repeated in the Ponelle production with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

The Dallas Opera has heard her in Peter Grimes with Jon Vickers, Die Walkuere, Romeo And Juliet, Lakme and a memorable performance of "Madame Flora" in The Medium with Gian-Carlo Menotti directing, which inaugurated their new spring season in 1984. She also worked with Maestro Menotti in his THE LAST SAVAGE at the Spoleto Festival, USA.

Her Houston Grand Opera Debut was as "Madame Flora" in The Medium. She also has appeared there in such varied repertoire as Aida, Falstaff, Il Trovatore, Peter Grimes, Andrea Chenier, The Daughter Of The Regiment, Tancredi, and Hansel And Gretel.

She appeared with the Connecticut Opera as "Ulrica" in Un Ballo In Maschera, a role which she also performed at the New York City Opera, as well as the "Baroness" in Die Junge Lord, the "Mother" in The Consul and "Katisha" in The Mikado.

She repeated her "Madame Flora" in The Medium with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and returned for Gianni Schicchi, Falstaff, and "Ruth" in Colin Graham's highly acclaimed production of Pirates Of Penzance, a role she has repeated with the Edmonton Opera, Cincinnati Opera and Augusta Opera. In another world premiere she created the role of "Mrs. Cratchit" in Thea Musgrave's A Christmas Carol with the Virginia Opera Association.

Miss James' concert appearances include Der Fliegende Hollaender with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra, a Beethoven Ninth Symphony with the Boston Symphony, "Jocasta" in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex with the National Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony, where she also appeared in the world premiere of Gordon Getty's Plump John.

In addition to Leonard Bernstein's A Quiet Place (Deutsche Grammophon), Miss James' other complete opera recordings include Verdi's Il Trovatore (Gala GL), Thea Musgrave's A Christmas Carol (MMG), and two Jack Beeson operas, The Sweet Bye And Bye (Desto) and Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines (RCA).

Clarity James received her bachelor's degree from the University of Wyoming and her master's degree from Indiana University. She holds an Exemplary Alum Award from the University of Wyoming, and has been the recipient of a Martha Baird Rockefeller grant, a Metropolitan Opera Association grant, the Lillian Garabedian Award and a Corbett Foundation Award. She is a biographee in the Marquis' Who's Who, the Who's Who in Opera, the Who's Who of American Women, the Who's Who in Music, the Who's Who in Entertainment, the International Who's Who in Music and the International Who's Who of Women. Ms. James, Professor of Music, joined the faculty in 1990 and was Director of Vocal Studies and Opera Workshop until she retired as Professor Emeritus in 2013.

Critical Acclaim

"Delicious performance, resplendent singing; good musical sense and sensibility." -New York Times

"Clarity James played the Kostelnicka as a woman on the brink of mental collapse. She took wild vocal as well as theatrical chances and succeeded. This was an heroic performance of emotional intensity and vocal grandeur." -Los Angeles Times

"Clarity James as Madame Flora was riveting not only in the power of her singing, but in the strength of her portrayal. The impact of her acting and her dominating presence was out of the ordinary." -Dallas Morning News

"Clarity James was breathtaking. Seldom does one hear a soloist so capable of making every word of text so significant. James has a different vocal color for every syllable, and a vibrato that colors but never interferes. Her's is a haunting presentation." -San Francisco Examiner

"Opulent in sound, passionate in dramatic involvement; if there is a finer dramatic mezzo in America today, I don't know who she is." -Boston Globe

"Clarity James as Gaea invested her rolling platitudes with unforced opulence worthy of an Erda and a contralto profondo that descended to unreasonable depths with reasonable ease." -Los Angeles Times

"The contralto part is the lowest ever written, but Clarity James made it sound sumptuously beautiful." -Boston Sunday Globe

"The gripping performance of the evening belonged to Clarity James. Her clear, lusty high register soared effortlessly to the last balcony row." -Houston Chronicle

"Clarity James as Ulrica gave that thankless witch's role some exciting singing that mixed sinister overtones with solid mezzo technique." -Milwaukee Journal

"Magnificent. Clarity James revealed a thrilling voice of great range and dark color. The sweeping lines of her phrasing were breathtaking." -Milwaukee Sentinel

"Clarity James showed significant Straussian stamina in her strong, tonally well-controlled singing." -The Houston Post