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Diva's 3-Ring Circus Starts Small


Denyce Graves and her husband, Robert Montgomery. (Matt Mendelsohn)


Denyce Graves, Washington's homegrown opera superstar, and Robert Montgomery were married yesterday in a quiet ceremony at a chapel of Washington National Cathedral.

"An intimate thing, just the two of us," as she described it to us last week -- only a handful of guests and the cathedral's dean, the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, there to administer the vows.

Right now you're thinking: C'mon! The top diva of her generation owes us a bit more wedding than that! Never fear. Yesterday's nuptials were just the first of three this summer to consecrate the union of the mezzo-soprano and her physician sweetheart -- one of the top transplant surgeons in the country -- each ceremony more dazzling than the last.

In August, they will travel to Kenya for a blessing in a tribal Masai village. This was the groom's idea and will mark the bride's first trip to Africa. "When he was first studying medicine he studied with medicine men in the village. When he proposed last year at Thanksgiving, he said, 'I'd love to have a wedding in the Masai village.' We looked into that -- it's not legal."

Then in September, they'll go back to the cathedral to do it up big. All the friends, all the family, plus documentary film cameras. But the diva, it should be noted, suggested a smaller scale. "I wanted to have a little ceremony, nothing but the two of us," Graves told us. "He wanted to have for his family much more of a public announcement about our new lives." So they're compromising -- and doing both. (It's the second marriage for both bride and groom. Graves's daughter just turned 5, while Montgomery has two college-age kids.)

"We feel so extremely blessed," she said. "He wanted to scream from the top of the bell towers."

A spectacular celebration of an unlikely romance. They met four years ago when they were seated next to each other on a Dulles-to-Paris flight. "That's the only way either of us could meet the other," she said.

Graves, now 45, had spent a decade thrilling audiences on opera stages around the world. Montgomery, now 49 and the chief of transplant surgery at Johns Hopkins, has gained acclaim for his work with "kidney paired donations," in which a donor who isn't compatible with the recipient he wants to help instead gives an organ to a stranger, in exchange for a kidney from the stranger's willing loved one. In another pioneering surgery that made headlines this winter, Montgomery's team was the first to remove a donor's kidney via her vagina. (Don't cringe: It reduces scarring and recovery time.)

"I'm usually the first one to pull out my laptop" on long trips, Graves told us. "But we talked from takeoff to landing." (Fittingly, the rehearsal dinner before their full-scale September ceremony will be in a hangar at Dulles.)

Early in the courtship, they made an agreement, she said: "He had to come to an opera, and I had to come to a kidney transplant." Montgomery saw Graves in the Washington National Opera production of "Bluebeard's Castle" and later a recital at the Kennedy Center.

"Then I finally went to watch him in his own theater," Graves said dryly. "I'm not sure I'd do it again." And yet: "I am myself in awe and in great reverence for the way he lives his life."

If it sounds as though she's pretty crazy about him, the feeling seems to be mutual. One of Montgomery's transplant patients recently returned for a checkup after a few years and told him he was glowing. "Along with the birth of my daughter, this is the most beautiful happening in my life," Graves said. "We've begun an excavation of our souls that has unfolded new selves for us."

By The Reliable Source  |  June 30, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
 
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Comments

Denyce Graves a superstar? Not exactly. She had a nice career and is just about finished at 45. (A real superstar, Renee Fleming, is 50 and at the height of her powers.) To call Ms. Graves "the top diva of her generation" is like calling Jason Campbell the top quarterback of his generation.

Posted by: wolfiecy | June 30, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Who pissed in your cornflakes this morning, wolfiecy? This is a nice story about two people who've found love, and you have to rain on the parade?

Posted by: 7900rmc | June 30, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, 7900rmc. I thought the same thing. With all the news about people becoming famous for being on some reality TV show, here's a beautiful story about a woman who oozes real star quality and talent. And of course someone had to chime in with some pissy comment. This is the way the world works these days.

Posted by: matt29 | June 30, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Is it too much to ask for a little accuracy from the Post once in a while?

Posted by: wolfiecy | June 30, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Would it be accurate to state that wolfiecy is a boob?

Posted by: theo3 | July 1, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Congrats to them. What a nice story of love.

Posted by: shejoy | July 1, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

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