Leona Mitchell (born October 13, 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, Miss 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.
Miss 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. Leona is the sister of Yahweh Ben Yahweh (born as Hulon Mitchell Jr.)
She received a BA in music from Oklahoma City University and went on to graduate studies at The Juilliard School of Music in New York. 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.
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.
Miss Mitchell has contributed to several recordings, had many television appearances, and served as honorary chair for Black Heritage Month to the Oklahoma legislature.
Miss Mitchell has had a long and illustrious career having sung at most of the world's best-known opera houses, including those in Paris, Sydney, Buenos Aires, London (Covent Garden), Vienna, Verona, Parma, Geneva, Bordeaux, Madrid, Marseilles, Toronto, Rio, San Francisco, Berlin, Hamburg, Chile, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Stuttgart, Chicago, Winnipeg, Rome (the Caracalla Baths), Giza in Egypt and at the Orange Festival in France.
While singing in Paris, the critics heralded Leona as "The Toast of Paris."
Miss Mitchell was a leading Soprano with the Metropolitan Opera of New York for 18 seasons. Many of her roles at the Met were varied and illustrious. She essayed in many new productions: Ernani, Turandot, and Aida.
Some other roles at the Met were: Micaela, Manon from Manon Lescaut, Leonora from La Forza Del Destino and Il Trovatore, Amelia, The Masked Ball, Delilah from Handel's Samson, Pamina, Madama Butterfly, Mimi & Musetta, La Bohème, Lauretta, and Madame Lidouine in French and English.
She has also appeared with many worldwide major symphony orchestras including those in London, Japan, New York, Los Angeles, Israel, Chicago, Monte Carlo, Philadelphia, Edinburgh, Florence, Pittsburg and Cleveland.
Miss Mitchell has performed Recitals all over the world: Alice Tully Hall, New York, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Japan, Madrid, Sydney, Ottawa, Sardinia, Hawaii, Korea and all across the United States.
Miss Mitchell also toured Japan with the Florence Opera and Zubin Mehta and Covent Garden
Leona Mitchell has performed for four US Presidents: Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton & Vice President George Bush along with 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 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.
Miss 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, The Jerry Lewis Telethon,Good Morning America, CBS Night watch, The Charlie Rhodes Show, Public Television along with many PBS "Live from Lincoln Center Broadcasts","Live from the Met series" and The Kennedy Center Honors.
- "Liberty Receives Classical Salute, Sun Sentinel, July 5, 1986
- 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.