Seated with President and Mrs. Obama, as well as with her fellow Honorees (actress Shirley MacLaine and musicians Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel, and Carlos Santana), the pre-eminent American soprano will be saluted with performances and tributes during the star-studded gala celebration that will be broadcast in a prime time special on CBS-TV (Dec 29 at 9pm, EST).
The honor is a fitting one, for Arroyo has devoted herself to opera over the course of a decades-long career. Since retiring from the stage, where her voice was heralded by the New York Times as “among the most glorious in the world,” the Harlem-born soprano has continued to serve the art form through the Martina Arroyo Foundation, the non-profit cultural organization she established ten years ago to provide new generations of talented young singers with the tools to pursue careers in opera and prepare them for the stage.
The primary criterion in the Kennedy Center Honors selection is excellence. From Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein:
The Kennedy Center celebrates five extraordinary individuals who have spent their lives elevating the cultural vibrancy of our nation and the world. Martina Arroyo has dazzled the world with her glorious soprano voice and continues to share her artistry with a new generation of opera singers.
|Martina Arroyo as Puccini's Butterfly|
A most persuasive ambassador of opera, the soprano remains committed to teaching and to young artist development, and in 2003 she established her own non-profit cultural organization. Now celebrating its tenth anniversary season, the Martina Arroyo Foundation offers two intensive programs of study, coaching, and performance, both of which provide immersive preparation of complete operatic roles.
As Arroyo explains:
Having been fortunate to have a long wonderful career, I saw things that I found a young person needed to have in a career and that I hadn’t received because they weren’t available – and one of the most important points was the development of the character.… Few of us had had role study where you started on page one…to learn about your character and to develop the character from beginning through end. And not only your part, but also your colleagues’ parts. I think a thorough study of your character and the opera makes you a far better performer.I couldn't be more pleased for Ms. Arroyo. As a teaser, here Maestro Bernstein conduction Martina Arroyo in the "Libera Me" from Verdi's Requiem. I can't ever get enough of this...