Leona Mitchell had a tremendous opera career. For years, the soprano, born on Oct. 13, 1949, was a leading singer at the Metropolitan Opera, dominating in such operas as “La Bohème,” “Carmen,” “Don Carlo,” “Die Zauberflöte,” and “La Forza del Destino,” among others.
Her first-ever “Madama Butterfly” at the Met was proclaimed “a wedding of her beautiful, lyric voice to a part made to order for her by nature and made magnetic by her art.”
The soprano’s ascension to becoming such a prized artist came about with a number of career-defining moments. Here is a look at the milestones Mitchell’s career.
Her professional debut came as Michaëla in “Carmen” in 1973 in San Francisco. On Dec. 15, 1975, she would also sing the role of Michaëla at her Metropolitan Opera debut.
In the first-ever complete recording of “Porgy and Bess,” Mitchell appeared as the female lead and would subsequently go on to win her first Grammy Award for the work. She appeared in that recording with Williard White and conductor Lorin Maazel.
On July 5, 1986, the soprano was showcased alongside the New York Philharmonic to usher in the 100th Anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. Her performance was televised live from Central Park on ABC Television.
Hall of Famer
In 2004, the spinto soprano was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. A native of the Oklahoma, her achievements were widely viewed as a massive victory for the state and she was also included in the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame, and Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. She has a street named after her in her hometown of Enid and there is even a museum named in her honor. She was also named Oklahoma’s State Cultural Ambassador and in 2014 she added the Oklahoma African-American Hall of Fame to her resumé.