Society of Peabody Alumni
Citation for the Peabody Distinguished Alumni Award
April 20, 2002
James Morris, you have traveled a long way since your days at Peabody studying voice with Frank Valentino. You sang in the Madrigal Group, and with the Peabody Chorus, both led by Norman Johnson, and in all the Peabody Opera productions that took place while you were here.
After leaving Peabody, you were accepted into the Baltimore Opera Chorus and were coached by the diva Rosa Ponselle, who came out of retirement specifically to teach you. You continued your education at the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts and studied with the Metropolitan Opera basso Nicola Moscona.
Your audition and subsequent acceptance in 1971 to the Metropolitan Opera launched your career and four years later you sang your first performances of the title role of Don Giovanni at The Met. You were the youngest male singer ever to join the Metropolitan Opera. Since then you have triumphed in diverse roles from Baron Scarpia to the Flying Dutchman.
The Metropolitan Opera was only the beginning for you. You have performed in virtually every international opera house and have concertized with the major orchestras of the United States and Europe. You are renowned the world over for performances of a diverse repertoire on the opera, concert and recital stages and on recordings.
You have nonetheless remained exceedingly loyal to your native Baltimore where audiences gave you your first ringing bravos. Your first tryout for the role of Wotan was with the Baltimore Opera in 1984. Now you are internationally acclaimed as one of the leading Wotan/Wanderers of our day. The New York Time music critic Anthony Tommasini wrote that “the great James Morris…sings the heroic bass role of Wotan, as if born to it, and his portrayal grows richer each time.”
In 2001 you triumphed again by appearing in the role of Hans Sachs in The Meistersingers, a role that is regarded as the ultimate test of a bass baritone’s stamina and vocal range. The New York Times reported, “he sounds as if he has been singing it all his life.”
It is for your extraordinary musical accomplishments that The Peabody Chapter of The Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association confers upon you the honor of the Distinguished Alumni Award.