Not many opera singers can claim to be inducted into a hall of fame. But Leona Mitchell can claim to be inducted into two.
Born on Oct. 13, 1949, in Enid, Oklahoma, Mitchell and from an early age it was apparent that she would be a musician as she sang in the choir of the church where her father was the MInister. She was the 10th of 15 children in her family.
She studied at Oklahoma City University for her Undergraduate studies and then got her Masters degree from the Juilliard School of Music.
From there she had a tremendously successful career, featuring extensively at the Metropolitan Opera and performing around the world in Japan, Florence, Edinburgh, Korea, Hong Kong, Madrid, Melbourne, and Ottawa, among others.
She appeared on the first complete recording of “Porgy and Bess,” winning a Grammy Award.
She performed for four U.S. presidents, earned two Honorary Doctorates, and would even have a Museum named in her honor. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Oklahoma African-American Hall of Fame in 2014.
Mitchell performed a wide range of repertoire, though mainly from Italian composers like Verdi and Puccini. Her interpretation of Micaëla in “Carmen” is well-regarded, but few would overlook the vocal beauty and power she lent to her interpretations of the Verdi and Puccini heroines.
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