Monday, November 25, 2013

Martina Arroyo to receive Kennedy Center Honors.

It's about darned time ... In recognition of her outstanding lifetime contribution to American culture, soprano Martina Arroyo will be one of five recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday, December 8 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

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
Born in 1937 and raised in Harlem, Martina Arroyo went on to conquer the opera world, from the Metropolitan Opera to the Vienna State Opera, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires to La Scala in Milan, Paris Opera to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, and the great concert halls from Salzburg and Berlin to her hometown of New York. Few in her generation have been so fearless or so successful across the repertory, from Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and Strauss to Barber, Bolcom, Schoenberg, and Stockhausen. Her extensive recorded legacy reflects her inspired collaborations with conductors Leonard Bernstein, Karl Böhm, Rafael Kubelík, Zubin Mehta, Thomas Schippers, Colin Davis, and James Levine, and her numerous awards and accolades include a 2010 Opera Honors Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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...

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