Cynthia Haymon


Born: September 6, 1958
This American soprano, who came to international prominence in the first Glyndebourne Festival production of Porgy and Bess, was well prepared for stardom, having been thoroughly schooled at one of America's leading universities. An apprenticeship at Santa Fe and the title role in an important world premiere preceded her triumph in the Gershwin opera, an experience unlike anything previously heard at the Sussex music festival. Gifted with a substantial and supple lyric instrument, she has also excelled in French, Italian, and German roles, pleasing audiences in Europe and America and especially endearing herself to the London public. One of nine children born to Reverend and Mrs. John T. Haymon, Cynthia Haymon began singing in her father's church, the New Hope Baptist Church in Clay County, FL. At the time, she had no notion that a career in music might be a possibility. The elder Haymons were supportive of their children and all nine siblings enjoyed a college education. For Cynthia, two years of study at Florida Community College in Jacksonville were followed by a degree from Northwestern University, where a music award and scholarship allowed her to complete her degree in 1984. After further studies in New York, she was engaged in 1984 as an apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera, where she had the opportunity to participate in several important productions. The American premiere of Henze's We Come to the River found her in a minor role, but for Orphée aux Enfers, she was cast as Diana and in Strauss' Die Liebe der Danae (a rarely performed work, but a key one in the company's traversal of the composer's complete dramatic works) she sang the part of Xanthe. The following year brought Haymon her first taste of celebrity when she was cast in the title role of Thea Musgrave's Harriet, The Woman Called "Moses" with the Virginia Opera. Haymon won good reviews and the opera was subsequently recorded, advancing her reputation beyond American borders. In 1986, Simon Rattle introduced Glyndebourne audiences to Porgy and Bess in a production that cast Haymon as Bess opposite Jamaican bass Willard White, already an experienced Porgy. The production won spectacular reviews and the recording that followed substantiated the generous words critics offered for the live production. Since that now-legendary production, Haymon has established herself as a lyric soprano well suited to several Puccini heroines, winning commendations for her Mimi and Liu. Glyndebourne invited her back for Eurydice in 1989 and she has enjoyed successes in Europe, notably at Munich and Hamburg, as well as in Japan. For Seattle, she has sung Susanna and Micaëla, and at the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee, she was engaged for Hänsel in Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel. Married to tenor/pianist Barrington Coleman, whom she met during the Glyndebourne Porgy and Bess, Haymon resides in Illinois, where her husband is a university professor. On occasion, they have appeared together in programs of arias and duets. In addition to the Gershwin and Musgrave operas, Haymon has been featured on a recording of Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time directed by Richard Hickox and featuring her Glyndebourne colleagues Cynthia Clarey, Damon Evans, and White. Haymon is also an affecting Mimi in Chandos Records' English-language recording of La bohème.