Justino Díaz

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Justino Díaz
Díaz at the 2021 Kennedy Center Honors
Díaz at the 2021 Kennedy Center Honors
Background information
Born (1940-01-29) 29 January 1940 (age 83)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Occupation(s)Opera singer

Justino Díaz (born January 29, 1940) is a Puerto Rican operatic bass-baritone. In 1963, Díaz won an annual contest held at the Metropolitan Opera of New York, becoming the first Puerto Rican to obtain such an honor and as a consequence, made his Metropolitan debut in October 1963 in Verdi's Rigoletto as Monterone.

Early years[edit]

Díaz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the capital of the island, but lived and was raised in the town of Cataño. He attended Robinson Elementary School where, at the age of 8, he started to participate in the school's activities as a singer. In his first school play, when he was 10 years old, he sang the song "Old Black Joe", which became his favorite. After finishing his primary education, Díaz attended the University of Puerto Rico High School in Río Piedras. While in high school, he took singing classes and participated in various presentations around the island.[1]

Díaz joined the choir of the University of Puerto Rico, under the direction of Augusto Rodríguez, where he sang solo. His operatic debut was in 1957 as Ben in Gian Carlo Menotti's The Telephone, or L'Amour à trois. It wasn't long before Díaz enrolled in New England Conservatory in Massachusetts. One of his professors was Boris Goldovsky, who would be very influential in his career. Díaz made his professional debut as an opera singer at the Opera Theater of New England. In 1960, Goldovsky asked Díaz to join his opera company on a 20-state tour. After the tour, he entered and participated in a competition celebrated at the Metropolitan Opera House, winning third place in the New England region.[2]

Díaz moved to New York upon finishing his studies at the conservatory. Goldovsky recommended that he be represented by Hans J. Hoffman, a talent agent. Soon, Díaz was singing alongside other artists at the American Opera Society. He also sang with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Metropolitan Opera[edit]

External audio
audio icon You may listen to Justino Díaz sing Verdi, Macbeth: Pietà, rispetto, amore on YouTube.

On March 29, 1963, Díaz won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, becoming the first Puerto Rican to obtain such an honor. As a consequence, Díaz made his Metropolitan debut in October 1963 in Verdi's Rigoletto as Monterone. He went on to sing 400 performances in 28 roles at the Metropolitan Opera, his final appearance there being Baron Scarpia in Tosca, in 1994.[3]

Among the opera houses in which Díaz has performed are: Paris Opera, The Vienna Staatsoper; the Opera House of Salzburg; the Opera of Spoleto; the Opera of Rome; The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden; the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires; the Zarzuela Theater of Madrid, Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu and others. In 1966 he helped to inaugurate the Lincoln Center in New York City by starring opposite Leontyne Price in the opening night performance of Antony and Cleopatra by Samuel Barber.[4]

The bass-baritone was seen at La Scala in two operas of Rossini, L'assedio di Corinto (with Beverly Sills and Marilyn Horne, 1969) and La pietra del paragone (at the Piccola Scala Arturo Toscanini, 1983 and 1983). He first appeared at the New York City Opera in Ginastera's dodecaphonic Beatrix Cenci, opposite Arlene Saunders, in 1973.

In Puerto Rico[edit]

In Puerto Rico, Díaz was a frequent participant in the annual Casals Festival. He sang in the inauguration of the Luis A. Ferre Performing Arts Center in San Juan. He also played the role of Luis Muñoz Marín in the 1984 musical Fela. In 1986, Díaz played the role of Iago, opposite Plácido Domingo in Franco Zeffirelli's film adaptation of Otello. In 1967, his Escamillo in Carmen was filmed, conducted and directed by Herbert von Karajan, and also starring Grace Bumbry and Jon Vickers.[1]

Díaz recorded Messiah, Semele and Solomon by Handel. He also recorded Lucia di Lammermoor, L'assedio di Corinto (both with Sills) and Thaïs (with Anna Moffo), as well as an album of arias of Mozart. He has also sung the role of Emile de Becque in the world-premiere recording of the complete score from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. He stars in this British-produced 2-CD set opposite Paige O'Hara as Nellie Forbush. In 1987, Diaz played the role onstage at Lincoln Center.

Recognitions and awards[edit]

Among the recognitions and awards which Díaz has been honored with are: An Honorary Doctorate in Music from the New England Conservatory, Handel Medallion[5] from the City of New York and The National Medal of Culture from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.[1] On 20 July 2021, it was announced that Diaz would be among the five honorees at the annual Kennedy Center Honors gala.[6][7]


Role Opera Composer
Antony Antony and Cleopatra Barber
Don Fernando Fidelio Beethoven
Conte Rodolfo La sonnambula Bellini
Oroveso Norma Bellini
Giorgio I Puritani Bellini
An Apprentice Wozzeck Berg
Escamillo Carmen Bizet
Mefistofele Mefistofele Boito
Khan Konchak Prince Igor Borodin
Stromminger La Wally Catalani
Creonte Medea Cherubini
Raimondo Lucia di Lammermoor Donizetti
Francesco Beatrix Cenci Ginastera
Méphistofélès Faust Gounod
Frère Laurent Romeo e Giulietta Gounod
Palémon Thaïs Massenet
Nelusko L'africana Meyerbeer
Seneca L'incoronazione di Poppea Monteverdi
Figaro Le nozze di Figaro Mozart
Don Giovanni, Commendatore Don Giovanni Mozart
Sarastro, Guardia Die Zauberflöte Mozart
Boris Boris Godunov Mussorgsky
Gonnario I Shardana Porrino
Alvise La Gioconda Ponchielli
Colline La bohème Puccini
Scarpia, Angelotti Tosca Puccini
Jack Rance, Jake Wallace La fanciulla del West Puccini
Conte Asdrubale La pietra del paragone Rossini
Don Basilio Il barbiere di Siviglia Rossini
Maometto L'assedio di Corinto Rossini
Abimelech Samson et Dalila Saint-Saëns
Un Soldato Salome Strauss
Gremin Eugene Onegin Tchaikovsky
Zaccaria Nabucco Verdi
Macbeth Macbeth Verdi
Conte Luisa Miller Verdi
Rigoletto, Sparafucile, Monterone Rigoletto Verdi
Grenvil La Traviata Verdi
Giovanni da Procida I vespri siciliani Verdi
Simon Boccanegra, Fiesco, Paolo Simon Boccanegra Verdi
Padre Guardiano La forza del destino Verdi
Rodrigo, Il Grande Inquisitore, Friar Don Carlo Verdi
Amonasro, Ramfis, Il Re Aida Verdi
Iago, Lodovico Otello Verdi
Night Watchman Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Wagner
Titurel Parsifal Wagner


Among the films and television appearances made by Díaz are the following:[8]

  • Callas Forever - 2002 - as Scarpia
  • "When the Fire Burns: The Life and Music of Manuel de Falla - 1991 - as "Don Quixote" (in El Retablo de Maese Pedro)

... aka "Life and Death of Manuel de Falla" (USA) ... aka "The Life and Music of Manuel de Falla" (USA: short title)

  • Otello - 1986 - as Iago
  • Carmen - 1967 - as Escamillo

Television appearances[edit]

Later years[edit]

On March 29, 2003, Díaz retired after 48 years in opera. However, before he made his last presentation at the Luis A. Ferre Performing Arts Center, he sang for the last time in public with his University of Puerto Rico alumni chorus the song "Old Black Joe", the same song that he sang at the Robinson Elementary School when he was 8 years old,[2] Díaz and fellow Puerto Rican pianist Elías López-Sobá were, from 2003 to 2009, the artistic and musical directors of the Casals Festival, a classical music event held annually in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[2]

Justino Diaz is married to Ilsa Rodriguez. He has two daughters by a previous marriage: Helen Hayes Award-winning stage and screen actress Natascia Diaz and dancer/composer Katya Diaz.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Music of Puerto Rico
  2. ^ a b c Popular Culture
  3. ^ "Metropolitan Opera Association".
  4. ^ "Alumni Profile: Justino Diaz '63, '86 hon. D.M." Archived from the original on 2008-06-15. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  5. ^ "JUSTINO DIAZ GETS CITY CULTURE PRIZE". The New York Times. Retrieved 2023-02-24.
  6. ^ McGlone, Peggy (21 July 2021). "In second Honors this year, Kennedy Center to recognize Joni Mitchell, Bette Midler, Lorne Michaels, Berry Gordy and Justino Díaz". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 Dec 2021.
  7. ^ Marks, Peter (5 Dec 2021). "Kennedy Center Honors: A toast to tradition". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 Dec 2021.
  8. ^ IMdB

External links[edit]