James McCray

Picture of James McCray

Picture of James McCray as Otello

Picture of James McCray as Rienzi
Born 1938 in Ohio, McCray served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War before entering the Mannes School of Music in New York City where he was a pupil of Patricia Neway. In 1962 he won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In the Spring of 1965 he was active with the Concert Opera Association at Philharmonic Hall in NYC, singing Chekalinsky in Pique Dame and Francesco in the United States premiere of Benvenuto Cellini. The following summer he appeared at the Stratford Festival of Canada as Jimmy Mahoney in Rise and fall of the city of Mahagonny.

From 1965-1968 McCray was active with the Israel National Opera; performing such roles as Canio, Cavaradossi, Don José, Manrico, Riccardo, and Samson. In 1969, he made his debut at the New York City Opera as Vladimir. The following year he sang Loris with the Opera Orchestra of New York, conductor Eve Queler, and soprano Judith de Pauli as Fedora.

In 1971 he sang Dick Johnson at the Minnesota Opera. That same year he performed the role of Manrico with Irene Dalis and Betty Allen alternating in the role of Azucena for the San Francisco Opera. In 1972 he created the role of Ken in the world premiere of Harold Farberman's The losers, which was commissioned by the Juilliard School.

From 1974–1976 McCray performed annually with the Greater Miami Opera Association, portraying roles in productions of Robert Ward's The crucible, Richard Wagner's The flying Dutchman, and Giuseppe Verdi's Otello under conductor Emerson Buckley. In 1977 he had a particular triumph at the Seattle Opera as Siegfried in Wagner's Ring cycle.

McCray joined Giancarlo del Monaco in Kassel, Germany, in September 1981 for Otello and Tristan.

During the 80s and early 90s, McCray sang in various European theaters including Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Prague, Catania, Cagliari, Oslo, Rouen, Toulon, Nantes, Angier, Orange and Bordeaux among others.

In addition to singing "Siegfried" in August Everding's Ring in Warsaw, Poland in 1989 and 1990, he sang over 100 performances of Tristan and Isolde including a production in Brussels with Gwyneth Jones,conducted by Sylvain Cambreling, in Montréal with Berit Lindholm, mise-en-scène by Roberto Oswald and costumes by Anibal Lapiz, and in Nancy, France, with Liesbeth Baltslev and in Freiburg (Germany) with Deborah Polaski, singing her first Isolde.And in Bordeaux (France) with Linda Kelm, conducted by Pinchas Steinberg with sets and costumes by Daniel Ogier. With the stage director Giancarlo del Monaco he has performed the principal tenor role in several productions including Otello, Il tabarro and Tannhäuser.

McCray has sung every Wagnerian opera for heroic tenor, from Liebesverbot and Die Feen to Parsifal. McCray has sung the Wagnerian repertoire in various Italian opera houses including La Fenice in Venice, where he also sang Fritz in Franz Schreker's Der ferne Klang with Sylvia Sass, under the musical direction of Gabriele Ferro.

During that period McCray sang in several productions of Otello in theaters at Split, Hamburg, Zagreb, Graz, Ghent, Liège, Prague, Bratislava, and Miami.

In October 1995, McCray was invited to Novi Sad in Serbia to sing a humanitarian concert and prepare some of its singers, including Frank van Aken for the production of Werther. At the same time, he sang Canio in Pagliacci in Novi Sad where he met his wife Prizrenka Petkovic McCray.

McCray's last performance was Pollione in Bellini's "Norma" with the great Yugoslavian soprano Radmila Bakočević at the May Festival in Skopje, Macedonia in 1996.

Since then he has been teaching in Serbia, Italy, Germany, San Francisco – and The Hague, where he had been living since 1997, and where he died on January 30th, 2018.

James McCray sings Il trovatore: Ah sì, ben mio
In RA format

James McCray sings Il trovatore: Di quella pira
In RA format
I would like to thank Rafael Vázquez for the recordings and pictures.

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