Leona Mitchell (born October 13, 1949, Enid, Oklahoma) is an American operatic soprano and an Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame inductee. She is also a Grammy Award-winning soprano who sang for 18 seasons as a leading spinto soprano at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
In her home state of Oklahoma, Ms Mitchell has been awarded many honors. These include the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Her home town of Enid has a street named after her called Leona Mitchell Boulevard, as well as a Museum named in her honor called "The Leona Mitchell Southern Heights Heritage Center and Museum".
Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma made her Oklahoma's State Cultural Ambassador. In late 2014, Miss Mitchell was inducted into the Oklahoma African-American Hall of Fame.
Mitchell started singing at an early age in the choir of the Antioch Church of God in Christ in Enid, where her father, Reverend Dr. Hulon Mitchell, was the Minister along with her mother, Dr. Pearl Mitchell, who was the pianist. Leona is the tenth child of Hulon and Pearl Mitchell; there were 15 children born to this union. Leona's mother went back to school, with her last two sons in high school, and became a Practical Nurse. Her brother Hulon Jr. was better known as Yahweh ben Yahweh, leader of the Nation of Yahweh cult.
Mitchell received a BA in music from Oklahoma City University and went on to graduate studies at The Juilliard School of Music in New York.
In 1973, she made her debut as Micaela in Georges Bizet's 1875 opera Carmen with the San Francisco Opera, subsequently she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York City on December 15, 1975 in the same role.
She sang the role of Bess in the first complete recording of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess from which she received a Grammy for "Best Opera Recording."
Miss Mitchell has contributed to several recordings, had many television appearances, and served as honorary chair for Black Heritage Month to the Oklahoma legislature.
In 1988, Leona Mitchell performed the role of Liù from Turandot, directed by Italy's acclaimed movie producer Franco Zeffirelli, at the Metropolitan Opera.
Leona Mitchell has collaborated with many great conductors, including Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, James Levine, and Seiji Ozawa.
She has had a long and illustrious career having sung at most of the world's best-known opera houses, including those in Paris, Sydney, Buenos Aires, London (Covent Garden), Vienna, Verona, Parma, Geneva, Bordeaux, Madrid, Marseilles, Toronto, Rio, San Francisco, Berlin, Hamburg, Chile, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Stuttgart, Chicago, Winnipeg, Rome (the Caracalla Baths), Giza in Egypt and at the Orange Festival in France.
While singing in Paris, she was referred to by critics as "The Toast of Paris."
Mitchell was a leading soprano with the Metropolitan Opera of New York for 18 seasons. She essayed in many new productions: Ernani, Turandot, and Aida.
Some other roles at the Met were: Micaela, Manon from Manon Lescaut, Leonora from La forza del destino and Il trovatore, Amelia from Un ballo in maschera, Delilah from Handel's Samson, Pamina, Madama Butterfly, Mimi and Musetta from La bohème, Lauretta, and Madame Lidoine in French and English.
She has also appeared with major symphony orchestras including those in London, Japan, New York, Los Angeles, Israel, Chicago, Monte Carlo, Philadelphia, Edinburgh, Florence, Pittsburg and Cleveland.
Mitchell has performed recitals in Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, Spain, Canada, Sardinia, Korea and all across the United States.
Mitchell also toured Japan with the Florence Opera and Zubin Mehta and Covent Garden.[clarification needed]
Mitchell has performed for four U.S. Presidents: Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Vice President George Bush along with many dignitaries which include Prince Charles, Princess Anne, The Honourable Sandra Day O'Connor, and Bishop Desmond Tutu.
On July 5, 1986, she performed in the New York Philharmonic tribute to the 100th Anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, which was televised live from Central Park on ABC Television. She sang the aria 'Un bel dì vedremo' from Puccini's Madama Butterfly and the American spiritual He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.
Mitchell has appeared in a production with each one of the Three Tenors: Ernani with Luciano Pavarotti, Turandot with Plácido Domingo, and Carmen with José Carreras, each of which has been recorded on DVD. In addition, She has appeared on many televised broadcasts, including The Merv Griffin Show," The Dick Cavett Show, The Jerry Lewis Telethon, Good Morning America, CBS Night watch, The Charlie Rhodes Show, Public Television along with many PBS "Live from Lincoln Center Broadcasts","Live from the Met series" and The Kennedy Center Honors.
She has received honorary doctorates from Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma.
In 1983, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame.