The purpose of this project is to provide a collection of transcriptions from the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. This project seeks to give a platform to all parts of the vocal performing arts to better understand the lived experiences and mentality of those professionals. In collecting stories from the COVID-19 pandemic Laquita Mitchell, soprano, talked with me about the impact of COVID on her singing career and how she has used this time to advocate for racial awareness. I am indebted to her for her work discussing these issues that surround opera and am consistently impressed by her creativity in a difficult time.
Laquita Mitchell, soprano Interviewed July 2, 2020
TB: So first off, I like to start with a positive note. So, what is the best thing that’s happened to you this last week?
LM: Well, the best thing that’s happened to me this week, beginning this past Monday—which would have been the 29th of June—I curated a panel of fantastic African American singers who primarily made their careers in Europe. I was able to speak with them yesterday. One of the panelists happened to be the great soprano Roberta Alexander and she has been an idol of mine for a very long time. Having the opportunity to speak with her one on one and to just commune — to speak about her incredible endeavors and all of the incredible things that she’s done in and for the world of opera — I’m just on cloud nine. So, I’m really, really appreciative of the time that she gave. And not only her, we had tenors, Howard Haskin, Jr., Colenton Freeman, and soprano, Janet Williams. So, it was a fantastic panel and I’m flying-high off of that.
TB: Well, as I watched that, it was just immensely powerful to hear these musicians talk about their experiences as they were growing in the art. But one of the things that struck me was also the support that the singers gave each other. I believe it was Mr. Haskins talking about how Simon Estes had helped him move through this career as well. It was just unbelievable. Obviously, you are also an established singer, so what is one of the things that you’re proudest about in your career so far?
LM: Well, I still think of myself growing as a singer. I think what I’m proud about in my career is that I’ve been able to evolve and that I’ve been able to always stay curious. I’m proud of being from a family of immigrants, who came to this country wanting nothing more but a better life. And I was able to, obviously with the help of my family, be the first to go through and finish college and graduate school. To make them proud and to leave some sort of lasting legacy behind the name “Mitchell.”
I’ve sung in many opera houses, and all over the world, but I think what I’ve set out to do was always to be an artist-teacher. I’ve always set out to be that and I think I’m able to do that now. So yes, I’ve sung La Traviata here in New York City, the second African-American to ever do this with a major company, the first and only African-American to win the Belvedere competition in Vienna. With all of that, I’m immensely proud, but I think what I’m mostly proud of is that I’m able to leave some sort of lasting legacy behind my name, because my family never really expected that. And to make them proud of everything, all of these accomplishments. For me, that’s what makes things better. It makes me happy. I never really think about that, I’m just in the ‘doing.’ So, I’m proud that I’ve done these things and that I’ve left a good name.
TB: And not only that, but as you said, you’re an artist-teacher. So you’re passing on these things to the next generation. So, diving into talking about the pandemic, could you tell me a little bit about where you were and how you first realized that your life was going to be directly affected by COVID-19?
LM: That second week of March, I was actually in Norfolk, Virginia. I was in rehearsals and preparing to do my first Aida at the Virginia Opera. It’s funny, my family—on my mom’s side of the family—they’ve all migrated to that area. So at this point, I had been seeing my family like every other day. I live in New York City: I get to see them, but not as often. So, I remember dropping some food off to my grandmother’s house, but before I went to her house, I was reading newspapers, and kept listening to NPR, and I heard about some things being closed. I thought to myself, “I don’t think I’m going to make it past this run. I don’t think we’re going to do it.” The very next day, I had a television interview and I got all gussied up to go to this interview. As I was sitting there speaking to the lovely journalist, in the back of my mind something said, “This is not going to happen.” And I left, I had to meet with a donor after that. When I finished with the donor, I went back to my hotel, I packed up the food from my apartment. I drove to my family’s house and I gave it to them, because I knew that they [Virginia Opera] had to close. I just knew it. When I was on my way back home, I’d gotten the phone call from the management and they were so kind. They were all hurt because we were all looking forward to doing this production.
I never got an opportunity to say goodbye to the director or to the conductor. Luckily, we—the singers—all got together. I didn’t leave the next day. I left the day after that because I needed to just spend a little bit more time with my family. I came back to New York City and was prepared to make sure my home was completely cleaned. I prepared myself because I thought for sure I’d be stuck in my home for maybe about a month and a half. I gave myself a month and a half, little did I know that I’d be here in July.
After that, obviously, all of my spring engagements were shut down. The Spoleto Festival, performances in Lithuania, and just everything was shut down. And it came to my mind that I’ve got to become productive in some way, to sort of preserve things. Even though we were confined and stuff like that, I began practicing. I began to have Skype lessons with my voice teacher, and I’m beginning to read books that I’ve been wanting to read for some time. Also, I began to do these little talks and panels on Facebook Live and it has been a wonderful joy.
Obviously, I miss my colleagues, I miss singing, and if you’ve listened to any of the discussions that I happen to put forth on Facebook Live, I always begin my panels with listening. I do that because I’d like the listeners—who are mostly music people—to get back to the listening. I want us to get back to the passion of hearing and seeing beautiful music making. I think that’s what we’re missing. We miss making music with our friends. We miss that live performance. Also, for singers of a certain age—I’m not old— but I’d say I still feel like these DVDs and videos helped us formulate our passions and likes and dislikes about singing, but that’s been lost. It’s been lost even though YouTube is there. I talk to students and I ask, “Well, have you heard [Carol] Vaness sing this or Lucia Popp?” [but] they can’t tell you anything, they don’t know who these great singers are. In certain instances, opera sort of began in the year 2000 or 2010 for some of them. But there’s so much to absorb.
On my panels, I do my very, very, very best to bring forth artists and singers whom I absolutely admire and respect, to show people a different side to things. In this country and singing opera, you can either be Miss [Jessye] Norman, Leontyne Price or Kathy Battle – no! –there are plenty of singers in between and before. So, my thought right now as an artist-educator is to bring forth that information while I do these panels. If you were there, if you watched yesterday, people were typing that they were weeping and sobbing listening to Ms. Alexander sing Jenufa because we all remember watching that Glyndebourne production. I had the DVD and the VHS, and I wore it out when I was in graduate school.
TB: Backing up, because I also want to illustrate some of the details about this as well: Virginia Opera was one of the opera companies that first went out and paid 50% of the fee upon cancellation, which helps financially. But could you dive into how this pandemic has affected you as an artist?
LM: Well, the pandemic has certainly affected all of us financially. In certain cases, it has bred a bit of mistrust. The singers have mistrust of the companies. The singers have mistrust of the whole thing because we’ve never experienced anything like this before. I think it has given us this feeling of “Wow, I’m really walking on quicksand here.” Virginia Opera was immensely, immensely gracious with their offering. But there were quite a few companies that were not. I have friends who have been affected by this to no end. But as far as me, they were kind to me. The other companies that I had contracts with after...well, it’s tricky because no one knows. Everyone is saying that the pieces have been postponed, they don’t want to say that they’ve been cancelled. So, allegedly in 2021, a lot of the things I lost for this spring will be presented. That’s what’s being said and the hopefulness in me is hoping that is the case.
However, with everything that is happening right now in the United States, my hope is dwindling every day. I am in awe of the other states, and I’m in awe with the fact that they did not take this as seriously as it is. My little cousin (she’s not [little, but] she’s little to me still) came up from Virginia to New York City as a relief nurse. Every Sunday I would cook and drive down to Midtown and bring food to the hotel where all of those workers have been working diligently in New York City to help fight COVID. She called me Tuesday and I thought that that was the goodbye call and she was going back home where my family is in Virginia Beach. But she said, “I’m not going home.” I said, “Well, what are you doing?” She replied, “I’m on my way to Texas.” I asked, “Okay, you’re going to do more relief work there?” Her reply was, “It’s really bad.” All I could do was just give my blessings and hope that she’ll be safe there. I did my residency at Houston Grand Opera, but she’s nowhere near Houston. So, I don’t really have anyone near where she is to help if anything happens, so that bothers me a little bit.
This COVID has affected people financially, obviously in a negative way, but I’ve lost two people during this time. And as much as money is something that we all need in order to survive—especially living here in New York City—I would love to have them back. I would love to have my high school teacher back. We buried him on the 25th [of June] and my birthday was the very next day. This man was the father figure that I never really had. I’d prefer to have them back. I’ll take them over the money any day. So, this time has not been great for the artist[s], I understand. But the human cost, in my opinion has been worse.
TB: Yeah and I think that we’ve seen that in multiple dimensions. The loss of human life, whether that’s Terrence McNally or Maestro Revzen.
LM: Exactly Terrence as well, who gave me my first shot in theater. And that’s the thing: it’s been loss after loss after loss. You’re just running on fumes. It escaped me that Terrence was taken away from us because of that, and hosts more. Joel Revzen, just a fantastic man and a fantastic musician, just the kindest. And in this business that’s filled with ego, [he was] just about the music and about goodness. He and I, I think, have birthday’s a day apart.. and I’d always write him and... I will miss that.
TB: So, from our conversation it’s clear that you are able to compartmentalize some of the grief and issues that we all have and remain productive and creative. Could you talk to me a bit about how you are able to do that?
LM: At first, in the beginning, I was not creative. I worked myself into a frenzy about making sure that I wouldn’t get sick. So, I doubled up on all of my vitamins and I just became this crazy person in terms of trying to stay safe and COVID-free. Especially because everyone was sick in New York. And then I released it. When my friend died, I was talking to my family and I said, “I’m working myself into a frenzy and I’ve got to stop it. I’m not being who I need to be in order to survive, if I’m going to survive this.”
So, I started thinking about the things that I missed, and I missed listening. I missed my voice lessons. I missed singing. So, I went back to having two days of practice and then a voice lesson and then the next week, two days of practice and then a voice lesson. And then I began to think about these panels and discussing things with people. I began to think about some of my students because, when I came back from Virginia, I still had to teach, and I was teaching via Skype or Zoom for my students at Brooklyn College. I had to prepare them for their juries. So, while some people were still in the house, I was out at a studio teaching. That helped me, that carried me into May, and I was certainly, certainly engulfed in that. Then grades at the end of the semester and whatnot.
It brought me into a space of doing. And if you’re doing, if you’re hard at work doing, then the juices start flowing again and you begin to start thinking about that thing, about singing, and about creating. So, then the panel discussions started to come to mind and the first panel discussion I did was the artist-teacher. I wanted to speak with people who I really respected, William Burden, fantastic tenor, the great Marietta Simpson, Kevin Short, and Kiera Duffy, who is just a fantastic soprano and singer. When I started thinking about how I can really teach myself—gaining this sort of knowledge from these people—that fostered creativity and the days are going by quicker. I wasn’t worried that things aren’t happening, and I began to start feeling like I was busy. And I don’t know about you, but I think we all feel far more busy now than we did before. Constant phone calls, Zoom calls, and so the creativity came in—boom! That’s how it came about, it was almost like a necessity. Like I needed to find something to feed me.
TB: So, if I can throw something back at you, it sounds like at the beginning it was inward focused and then you began to look outward into the community and talk about things that you could add to the conversation as well.
LM: Absolutely. On May 25th, when George Floyd passed away, I think it really awakened something in all of us to make us talk and to get a few things out; to really focus our attentions elsewhere. And I think, had we not had COVID, we wouldn’t be having these conversations.
TB: So, it is July 2nd. Minus a pandemic, where would you be? What would you be gearing up for?
LM: I would still be in Lithuania right now... yeah, I’d be in Lithuania, and I understand they’re doing outdoor concerts right now anyway, so it is what it is. Then I would be home and most of July, I’d be teaching at Manhattan School of Music. I’ve been teaching there for their summer camp and that’s been great. I have a Music Ed. Degree, so that’s a wonderful thing for me to utilize and to get a lot of kids ready for college auditions and things of that nature. And a lot of them have gone on to do some wonderful things and gotten into great schools. Then August, I would probably have that time off to prepare, and September, I will be—if God is willing—teaching at Brooklyn College and also teaching at the pre-college division at Manhattan School of Music, which I’ve just been hired to do. This September will be a year [since] Miss Norman has passed away and I’ve been asked to sing a concert in her honor, back in Augusta [Georgia] under the auspices of the symphony. They’re still going ahead with it! I don’t know what their protocol is or what they’re doing right now, but I’m still slated to do it. So, Monday, I’ll begin to look at the music!
Also, I’ve been asked to do some advisory things. And I forgot, I am building a mentorship program. My management company, Uzan International Artists, decided that they need to do more and that we need to do more in our business to really foster the equity and inclusion that we’ve been speaking about now for the past few weeks. We need to do something more than what we’ve been doing because it isn’t enough. So, this mentorship program will take place in the fall and it will be done digitally. My alma mater, Manhattan School of Music, has decided to partner with us. We’re still in the beginning works and stages of it, but it will be in the format of working alongside a manager.
The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions are willing to take on this mentorship program, San Diego Opera has interest, Opera Santa Barbara has interest. A few other artists agencies have interest to take on this thing that could possibly change how equitable things can be in the arts in the United States. There should be no reason why one of the greatest cities in the world does not have program of this nature down at Lincoln Center. So, after some of the meetings that I’ve had, I’m really, really excited about that. Again, for me, it’s about leaving some sort of lasting legacy because the voice is not always going to be there. It’s about leaving a lasting legacy of inclusion and honoring everyone.
TB: Oh, I’m really thrilled to hear that is moving forward. So, you’re acting as an advisor with the agency as well?
LM: Yes, my manager called me and asked, what she can do. I said, “Well, let’s do a mentorship program.” It will be paid and we’re going to do everything that we can to include BIPOC and LGBTQI folks at the table. We can’t continue doing the same things that we’ve been doing. And I believe that this mentorship program will open up doors for other things because this program doesn’t necessarily have to only be in classical music. It could be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Bronx Museum of the Arts, it can be anywhere. So again, we’re in the beginning stages. We’re building things. There’s a lot of information that I’m unable to give out right now, but I’m just so grateful to President James Gandre at Manhattan School of Music, [who] took the time to take our call. He was so incredibly excited about it and really believes that this is going to change a lot of things. And we’re looking to have this in an actual class format as well. So that’s great.
TB: So, in addition to being paid for it, then you can also get college credit for this as well. Allowing them to learn and pay bills, that’s wonderful.
LM: It’s the only way to do it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it if I were in school.
TB: That’s a really wonderful project. How do you think that the pandemic is going to change our musical landscape in the future?
LM: I think in the United States there will be far fewer singers. I think that more companies will close this year. I could be wrong, but I think that’s the case. If we do get back, I think that the managers will fight as hard as they can to change some of the wording in these clauses. But I think the companies are going to fight back. I don’t think the companies are going to go for it. I could be wrong; I pray that I am.
I think that there will be fewer casts and that the bottom line will be, “How can a company sustain itself and pay all of its workers a decent wages, health insurance, and retirement?” I just don’t know how these companies can sustain that without revenue. I think more singers are going to have to look in their toolboxes and figure out what it is that they also are passionate about and love.
Gone are the days of, “All I can do is sing.” If all you can do is sing in 2020, during COVID, then you are not going to make any money and you will not survive. I think we have to look at all of the gifts that we’ve been given. And I think that the symphonies and Broadway shows will be the most successful when we come back. I think opera will be the last thing. It’s not Europe, we’re not state funded, we’re not government funded. We’re just not. And the bigger companies and the biggest symphonies and orchestras that have that legacy money are the ones that will survive, but even with that legacy money there will be cuts. Gone are the days of three [or] four million dollars to the conductor. At least I think for the next five to six years.
Hardly any choral music because we can’t sing together. So, I think singers need to really, really begin to hone their craft, hone other skills, and also being able to do chamber work, which I have done a lot of in my career. Recitals where you don’t need to have very many people involved. I think we need to really begin to think along those lines, and slim down in order to have some type of art.
Our country cares far more about sports than they do about the arts. So, that’s another reason why this administration, I’d say, is really, really pushing for things to open. Because they want the American people to be distracted. We don’t have football to distract us. We don’t have baseball to distract us. So, I think that the landscape is going to be very, very, very, very different. I don’t think that there will be very many singers after this.
TB: So, one of the pieces of advice that you gave in that last answer on talking to younger artists is to look at singing as avocational: still doing the art form but maybe not counting on every paycheck. Is there anything else that you would like to advise to younger artists as well?
LM: My advice to younger artists in 2020 is to spend more time listening and I mean listen. Listen to as much music as you can. Not just vocal work, but chamber work, piano work, and symphonic work. Spend some time listening to obscure music, reading poetry, or just reading, period. And most of all, journaling: chronicle what is happening here. I’m writing every day because I need to remember how I feel during this time and I need to never ever, ever forget how import it was in my life to have had the opportunity to sing and to express and to communicate. Because we’re missing that right now. That’s why so many people are unhappy.
But even in this crazy time of COVID, we can find that quiet hour to just be ourselves and find that passion that once brought us to music in the first place. Social media and everything else that’s going on in the world has taken us away from the quiet that we need in order to synthesize. Many young people are listening so that they can answer. They’re not listening so that they can feel. Listen so that you can feel.
I have thousands of CDs, DVDs, and books, some of them I’ve not even opened. I have recordings that I’m on that I’ve not even listened to fully. So, this is the time to really listen. Listen to interviews of people that you’ve always admired. Listen to your voice lessons, your recordings that you’ve done in rehearsals, or orchestral rehearsals that you’ve done. That’s what I’ve been doing and I’m like, “Oh, that’s not that bad, that’s actually pretty good. Why was I so hard on myself at that moment?” I’m finding myself doing that and hoping and praying that I have the opportunity to do that once more.
Today’s [the anniversary] of Beverly Sill’s passing. I remember singing at the Met competition and I remember her hosting and being there. And I thought to myself, “I’m so embarrassed to sing Handel and to sing Manon in front of her. I was singing Cleopatra [Giulio Cesare] at that time. I was so immensely embarrassed to sing this in front of her because for me, she is Cleopatra, she is Manon, Massenet’s Manon. I looked at her at the end of the competition and I said, “I’m so embarrassed to sing in front of you. I can’t believe that I sang these arias in front of you. Your voice is the voice that I hear when I sing these pieces.” And she said, “Laquita, you’re a Brooklyn girl like me. What you have to offer is what you have to offer and what I had to offer, I offered it. You are those ladies right now. Whoever sings them, they are those roles right now. I had my time and now it is your time.”
So, I think about her today, because now I realize that this is our time. This is our time to make the most of this incredibly awful, awful time. It is our time to make things anew if we do it right. If we come back with the right things in order, we can make a lasting difference in the business. And I pray that we can be new and do things anew. I really, really do. I’m really hopeful about that, though I have a lot of friends who are not. But I’m hopeful that things will be different. I hope that more singers that have never really been given the opportunity are able to be heard, such as myself. I do believe that I haven’t been given the same opportunities as some of my other counterparts, but I’m praying that things will be anew.
TB: First off, let me thank you for your wonderful interview. Your answers have really been answers that have made me feel, so thank you. In closing up, what is your video binge recommendation for the pandemic?
LM: Well, one of my favorite shows is over, which is Outlander. I love that show. But I haven’t really been watching that much television, honestly. I’ve been listening.
TB: Do you have a listening recommendation?
LM: I’m totally going to go back and listen to this thing that I did yesterday because it’s so good. [See link to Laquita Mitchell’s interview, African American Opera Singers in Europe] I’m listening to a lot of James Baldwin, watching those debates and things of that nature. Looking at history as I’ve never seen it before, because I don’t claim to know it all. So, I’m listening to a lot of historic things, [Henry Louis] ‘Skip’ Gates and a lot of things about American history that I didn’t really know about. Looking at the women’s suffrage and the vote and what that actually meant for feminism and for women of color.
I’m a huge tennis fan, so I am going crazy that we don’t really have live tennis. There was a tennis tournament that went on and now most of them have COVID. It’s a mess. They shouldn’t have done it; it was too soon. But I’m watching old tennis matches and stuff like that, and I listen to NPR and to podcasts. I’m listening to more discussions and panels on things, such as TED talks and Robin DiAngelo, who wrote on White Fragility. But I’m listening to all sorts of things of that nature. I did binge watch the Michael Jordan series [The Last Dance], which was completely enlightening. You’ve got to watch it, if you can find it. It’s one of the most amazing things. I think it was broken up into 10 episodes, two hours a night. It was fascinating to me to see Michael Jordan. I love great sports athletes because singers are athletes. I love listening to their regimen, what they did, how they did it, and what was their focus. I love that stuff.
TB: Thank you so much for your time. It has been a privilege to chat with you.
African American Opera Singers in Europe Laquita Mitchell in conversation with:
Howard Haskin Jr.
Easter Hymn (Regina Caeli) from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni
Laquita Mitchell, soprano
Don Liuzzi, conductor
All City Orchestra
About Laquita Mitchell
Soprano Laquita Mitchell consistently earns acclaim on eminent international opera and concert stages worldwide. In her compelling début as Bess in Porgy and Bess with the San Francisco Opera, Opera News said “Laquita Mitchell, in her first outing as Bess, dazzled the SFO [San Francisco Opera] audience with her purity of tone and vivid theatrical presence.” She has since reprised the role with The Atlanta Opera, The Tanglewood Festival, Madison Symphony, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Toledo Opera, Springfield Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Sheboygan Symphony, Traverse City Symphony, the Margaret Island Open-Air Theatre in Budapest for their summer festival, and as the season opener for the Energa Sopot Classic Festival with the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra. Additionally, PBS invited Ms. Mitchell to perform a solo recital including excerpts fromPorgy and Bess with pianist Craig Terry for the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Los Angeles in preparation for the broadcast and DVD release of SFO’s Porgy and Bess.
Ms. Mitchell’s most recent engagements included the title role in Tom Cipullo’s Josephine with Opera Colorado, Bess in Porgy and Bess with Grange Park Opera in the UK, Lithuanian State Symphony, Detroit Symphony, and Baltimore Symphony, and the soprano soloist in Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec’s Sanctuary Road with the Columbus Symphony. Future engagements include Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Barber's Knoxville: Summer 1915 with Augusta Symphony, Bruckner’s Te Deum with Colorado Symphony, Verdi’s Requiem with Long Beach Symphony, and Brahms’ Requiem with Albany Pro Musica. Ms. Mitchell will also make a long-awaited role debut as the title role in Aida with Virginia Opera as well as create the role of Julie in the World Premiere of Grammy Award-Winner Rhiannon Giddens’ OMAR with the Spoleto Festival USA.
Notable engagements include the role of Coretta Scott King in I Dream with Opera Grand Rapids, Toledo Opera and Opera Carolina, Violetta in La traviata Opera Memphis, New York City Opera, and Edmonton Opera, and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Florentine Opera and Portland Opera. Recent concert engagements include the soprano solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Berkeley Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with Missoula Symphony, the world première of Moravec’s Sanctuary Road at Carnegie Hall with Oratorio Society of New York and her return to the Philadelphia Orchestra to perform in their Academy Ball alongside Steve Martin and led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
In her role début as Violetta in La traviata with New York City Opera, she was labeled “extraordinary,” thanks to her “wide expressive range and big-hearted sound that contains just a hint of sexy smokiness. Her ‘Sempre libera’ was enlivened by a rhythmic clarity that made it seem almost danceable.” Other appearances include Leonora in Iltrovatore in South Carolina as well as with Nashville Opera; Countess in Le nozze di Figaro with Toledo Opera; the role of Sharon in Terrance McNally’s Master Class at the Kennedy Center; Musetta in La bohème in a return to the Los Angeles Opera; Mimì in La bohème with Cincinnati Opera, and at the Utah Symphony and Opera; Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Florentine Opera, Portland Opera, and Opera New Jersey; Clara in Porgy and Bess with Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera, Opéra Comique in Paris and on tour in Caen and Granada, Spain; and Micaëla in Carmen with New York City Opera, Opera Pacific, and most recently, Cincinnati Opera, where the Cincinnati Enquirer hailed “Mitchell shone in the role of Micaëla, the peasant girl who loves Don José. She was a natural actress, and sang with expressive beauty whenever she was onstage.”
An active concert artist, Ms. Mitchell recently performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Saratoga Performing Arts Center; Over the Rainbow–an evening honoring Harold Arlen at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall; Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Louisville Orchestra; a début with the New World Symphony in Alberto Ginastera’s Cantata para la América Mágica; the world première of composer Steven Stucky’s August 4, 1964 with Dallas Symphony Orchestra; her Boston Symphony Orchestra début as the soprano soloist in Wynton Marsalis’ All Rise under the direction of Kurt Masur; and the soprano solo in Tippett’s A Child of ourTime with the Washington Chorus at Kennedy Center. She has also performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, Princeton Symphony Orchestra, the New York Symphonic Ensemble at Alice Tully Hall, and with Branford Marsalis and the Garden State Philharmonic. Additionally, she performs in recitals annually at Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe.
Ms. Mitchell is an alumna of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, where she performed a variety of roles including stand-out performances in contemporary operas such as Orquidea in Daniel Catán’s Salsipuedes (world première), Myhrrine in Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata (world première),Barena in David Alden’s production of Jenůfa, and The Water in Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince (world première) directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Patrick Summers. Ms. Mitchell was previously a member of the San Francisco Opera’s world-renowned Merola Program. She then joined Wolf Trap Opera in performances as Alice Ford in Antonio Salieri’s Falstaff, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and presented a recital with renowned pianist Steven Blier.
A native of New York City, Ms. Mitchell was a 2004 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Prize Winner, and was awarded a Sara Tucker Award. She was also the First Prize Winner of the Wiener Kammer Oper’s Hans Gabor Belvedere Competition, making her the first American to win this competition in over twenty years. Additionally, Ms. Mitchell was the First Prize Winner of the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, as well as the winner of the Audience Choice award. Ms. Mitchell holds a Master of Music degree and the Professional Studies Certificate at the Manhattan School of Music, and completed undergraduate studies at Westminster Choir College.