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. One of Leona's brothers, 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[when?] 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".
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, Mitchell performed the role of Liù from Turandot, directed by Italy's acclaimed movie producer Franco Zeffirelli, at the Metropolitan Opera. She collaborated with many great conductors, including Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, James Levine, and Seiji Ozawa.
She was a leading soprano with the Metropolitan Opera of New York for 18 seasons. She sang at most of the world's best-known opera houses in such roles as Turandot, Aida, Micaela, Manon, Leonora, Amalia Delilah, Pamina, Madama Butterfly, Mimi, Musetta, Lauretta, and Madame Lidoine.
She performed for five U.S. Presidents: Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George H. W. 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, and The Jerry Lewis Telethon.
She 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.