Justino Diaz Among The Kennedy Center’s 44th Class of Honorees

By David Salazar

The Kennedy Center has announced its 44th class of honorees, which will include one notable opera star.

Among the honorees will be bass-baritone Justino Diaz, who famously performed on the very first performance at the new Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center, taking on the title role in Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra” alongside Leontyne Price.

The Puerto Rican bass-baritone was also a winner of the 1963 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, becoming the first Puerto Rican to accomplish the feat. He would also go on to perform with a number of other organizations including the Paris Opera, Vienna State Opera, Teatro alla Scala, and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, among others.

“With his distinguished, deeply resonant voice and storied operatic career, Justino Díaz, stood on the stages of the world’s great opera houses and today stands as one of the greatest bass-baritones of our time,” stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein in a press release.

“I’m deeply grateful to be receiving this Honor. It is especially thrilling for me because 50 years ago I sang as the male lead in Ginastera’s Beatrix Cenci on the Opera House stage at the Kennedy Center’s grand opening—the night after Bernstein’s Mass. I was the first operatic voice to christen the walls of this wonderful institution all those years ago and I am beyond honored to return to this stage to have such a distinction bestowed on me. I am humbled as I assume my place amongst so many wonderful peers and talented artists,” Diaz stated in the release.

Other members of the 44th class of honorees including Berry Gordy, Lorne Michaels, Bette Midler, and Joni Mitchell.

The gala presentation is set for Dec. 5, 2021.