Leona Mitchell (born 13 October 1949, Enid, Oklahoma), is an African-American and Chickasaw 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, Mitchell has been awarded many honors. These include The Oklahoma Hall of Fame, The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, The Women's Hall of Fame and The Jazz Hall of Fame. Her home town of Enid has a Leona Mitchell Boulevard in her honor, as well as the city's Leona Mitchell Southern Heights Heritage Center and Museum. Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma made her Oklahoma's State Cultural Ambassador.
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. She is the sister of Yahweh Ben Yahweh (adopted name - real name Hulon Mitchell. Jr), the leader of Yahweh, an NRM religion. She does not share these beliefs.
She received a BA in music from the Oklahoma City University, went on to graduate studies at the Juilliard School in New York, and received honorary doctorates from Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma. In 1983 she was inducted in the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame.
Leona Mitchell currently lives in Houston, Texas with her husband/manager, Elmer Bush, and son Elmer Bush IV.
In 1973, she debuted as Micaela in Bizet's 1875 opera Carmen with the San Francisco Opera, debuting on 15 December 1975 in the same role at the Metropolitan Opera. She sang the role of Bess in the first complete stereo recording of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess under Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra. It was also in this role that she earned her Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. She has contributed to several recordings, had television appearances, and served as honorary chair of Black Heritage Month of the Oklahoma legislature. In 1988 Leona Mitchell performed the role of Liù in Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera under the direction of James Levine.
Mitchell has also sung at most of the world's best-known opera houses, including those in Paris, London (Covent Garden), Vienna, Rome, Australia, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Chicago, Rome (the Caracalla Baths), and in France at the Orange Festival amongst others. She has also appeared with some major symphony orchestras including those in London, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and many others.
Mitchell has performed for four US Presidents and many dignitaries which include Prince Charles, Princess Anne, the Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor, and Bishop Tutu. On July 5, 1986, she performed on the New York Philharmonic's 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 di from Puccini's Madama Butterfly and the American spiritual He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.
Leona 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 television broadcasts, including The Merv Griffin Show, the Jerry Lewis Telethon, Good Morning America and CBS Nightwatch, and was heard and seen on many PBS "Live from Lincoln Center" broadcasts plus the "Live from the Met" series.
- Leona Mitchell Southern Heights Indian Museum website home page; information retrieved 20 September 2011.
- Pittman, Kitty, "Mitchell, Leona Pearl", Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society.
- Shepherd, Kenneth R., Contemporary Black Biography: Leona Mitchell. The Gale Group, 2006.