Reri Grist is an internationally acclaimed lyric and coloratura soprano noted for her “silvery tone, flawless technique and stupendous acting.” Beginning her singing career as Consuelo in Leonard Bernstein’s musical “West Side Story” in 1957, she introduced the song “Somewhere” to the public. After that performance she flowed gradually into a thirty-year career in opera, singing countless roles in opera houses across Europe and America. She also concertized and has passed on her insights through teaching voice in several countries.
Born in New York on February 29, 1932, to West Indies immigrant parents who encouraged her talent and self-discipline, Grist acted as a young teen in several musicals. She attended the High School of Music and Art and received a degree in music from Queens College, New York in 1954. Singing with Bernstein’s New York Philharmonic, she gained recognition that led to her official operatic debut at the Santa Fe Opera in 1959, as Adele in Die Fledermaus. Igor Stravinsky met her there and invited her to perform in his Le Rossignol in 1963.
During a sightseeing trip to Europe in 1960, Grist auditioned for the Opernahaus Köln in Germany, and was immediately offered her European debut singing the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. She then became the first African American woman to become a permanent member of the Zurich Opera, 1960-1966 in Switzerland. This led to debuts at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Glyndebourne Festival Opera, in all in Great Britain, and at the Vienna State Opera in Austria where she performed through twenty-five consecutive seasons. In 1963 she first appeared with the San Francisco Opera, and continued through twelve seasons with that company. Grist debuted at the Metropolitan in 1966, singing there throughout twelve years. Her singing career has encompassed every major soprano role in opera repertoire. Through the years Grist has also performed concert works by classical and contemporary composers with major orchestras and conductors.