Audra McDonald & Suzanna Guzmán Named LA Opera Legacy Ambassadors

By Afton Wooten
(Photo credit: The Valley Music Hall of Fame & Javier Armijo)

LA Opera named soprano Audra McDonald and mezzo-soprano Suzanna Guzmán in the 2023-24 class of Legacy Ambassadors.

Last season, LA Opera launched the Legacy Ambassador program, an initiative to forge deep, authentic and longstanding relationships with diverse communities and the key thought-leaders who influence them. The ambassadors chosen are some of Los Angeles’ artists, business executives, and community leaders, all focused on preserving the legacy of the arts and ensuring that the arts are accessible to all. The program was created to address the diversity gap in opera audiences by cultivating a strong sense of belonging.

Audra McDonald is the winner of a record-breaking six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards and an Emmy Award. In 2015, she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. McDonald made her opera debut in 2006 at Houston Grand Opera and has gone on to perform with LA Opera, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. She hosted PBS’s broadcasting of the Met’s premiere of “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” and performance of “Porgy and Bess.” McDonald co-founded Black Theatre United, a nonprofit social advocacy organization and is a respected ally in the LGBTQIA+.

Suzanna Guzmán is a native of East Los Angeles and one of the original Associate Artists of Los Angeles Opera. She has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, Dallas Opera, Opera de Genéve, San Diego Opera to name a few. Guzmán advocates for Arts Education and is widely recognized for her mentorship to California students. In 2012 she received the Hispanic Scholarship Foundation’s “Mentor of the Year Award” and the Spirit of California Award from the State of California’s Latino Legislative Caucus. She has also been awarded the Mexican American Foundation award for Woman of the Year in 2013 and the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Nederlander Organization for her work in the arts and community. 

Other ambassadors include Whoopi Goldberg, Kahlana Barfield Brown, Bel Hernandez Castillo, Derek Fisher, Naima J. Keith, Patty Rodriguez, Ferrari Sheppard, Juri Watanabe and Nichol Whitman.