5 Major Career Achievements of Marilyn Horne

By David Salazar

Marilyn Horne is one of the greatest mezzo-sopranos of all time. Born on Jan. 16, 1934, the American singer would go on to become best-known for her domination of the bel canto and baroque repertoire. Her interpretations of Rossini are among the most iconic of the 20th century.

But Horne’s career can’t just be seen in the light of her achievements in the operas of the Italian masters. She had a ton more to offer over the numerous years that she dominated the opera world. Here is a look at her most iconic successes.

Master of the Modern

She may not have been best-known for her work in the modern repertoire but she sure championed it quite a bit. She rose to prominence when she took on Marie in “Wozzeck” in 1960. She championed the music of William Bolcom. She recorded a number of film sountracks, including “Flower Drum Song,” and “The King and I.” She also appeared in the world premiere of “The Ghosts of Versailles” at the Met.

Champion of Lesser Known

Horne was also a major proponent of lesser-known operas. She was one of the figures behind the Met’s production of the rarely performed “Le Prophète.” She starred in “Rinaldo,” the first ever production of a Handel opera at the Met. She performed in Bellini’s oft-neglected “Beatrice di Tenda” alongside Joan Sutherland. She recorded such works as “La Navarraise,” “Semele,” “Bianca e Falliero,” “Padmavati,” “Mignon,” and “Orlando Furioso,” all operas that are not part of the central operatic canon.

Major Award Winner

Horne was also a massive winner at the Grammys, taking home four different award. She won in 1964 for “Most Promising New Classical Recording Artist,” in 1973 for “Best Opera Recording – Carmen,” in 1981 for “Best Classical Vocal Soloist Performance,” and in 1993 for “Best Opera Recording – Semele.”

In sum, she was nominated 15 times over her career.

Other Major Awards

In 1992, Horne was awarded with the National Medal of Arts and just three years later, in 1995, she took home the Kennedy Center Honors alongside Jacques d’Amboise, B.B. King, Sidney Poitier, and Neil Simon.

Mentor to the Future Generations 

Horne has been a mentor for the new generation of singers, giving iconic masterclasses on annual basis at such conservatories as the University of Maryland, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and the University of Oklahoma. She also directed the Voice Program at the Music Academy of the West.




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