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American soprano Martina Arroyo has received numerous awards and accolades for her long-standing pre-eminence at the world’s foremost opera houses and concert halls, including a 2013 Kennedy Center Honors and a 2010 Opera Honors Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. She continues to make an invaluable contribution to the art form through her teaching and her commitment to young artist development through the Martina Arroyo Foundation.

Born in 1937 and raised in Harlem, 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. She has had the honor of three opening night performances at the Met, two of them in consecutive seasons. 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. The New York Times once heralded her voice as “among the most glorious in the world.” 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.

Arroyo studied to be a teacher and graduated from Hunter College at the age of 19. In 1958, she auditioned for and won the Metropolitan Opera’s Auditions of the Air, which gave her a chance to study both music and acting at the Met’s Kathryn Long School. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1958 in the American premiere of Ildebrando Pizzetti’s Murder in the Cathedral, and in 1965 stepped in as a last-minute replacement for an ailing Birgit Nilsson in Aïda at the Met, a career-changing moment. Over the years and in nearly 200 performances at the Met, Arroyo performed all the major Verdi roles that would be the core of her repertory, in addition to Mozart’s Donna Anna, Puccini’s Cio-Cio-San and Liù, Mascagni’s Santuzza, Ponchielli’s Gioconda, and Wagner’s Elsa. Her 1968 London debut came in a concert version of Meyerbeer’s epic Les Huguenots, followed the same year by her Covent Garden debut in Aïda. Her debuts at Paris Opera, La Scala and the Teatro Colón followed in close succession.

In 2003, Arroyo established her own non-profit cultural organization. Now celebrating its tenth anniversary season, the Martina Arroyo Foundation provides new generations of emerging young artists with the tools to pursue careers in opera, by means of two intensive programs of study, coaching, and performance that focus on immersive preparation of complete operatic roles.

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