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Valente, Benita (19 October 1934–Present)

Soprano from Delano, California, who began studying music whilst she was still in high school and furthered her education at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Music Academy of the West.

She had her coming-out party at the Marlboro Music Festival, where she began a longtime collaboration with Rudolf Serkin, and went on to become the resident soprano at the storied festival.  In 1960, she gave her first performance in The Big Apple and aced her audition for the Metropolitan Opera, although it would be several years until she adorned its illustrious stage.

She spent much of the ‘60s performing opera in Germany, including a stint as Pamina in The Magic Flute, a role she would claim as her own.  To date, she has embodied the role over 200 times, including her Met debut on 22nd September 1973.

In February 1983, she performed at Alice Tully Hall in New York, alongside pianist Richard Goode, in a set that included capriccios, intermezzi and songs by Johannes Brahms, English canzonettas of Franz Joseph Haydn, and “Six Songs of Gottfried Keller” by Hugo Wolf.

The end of the century marked the end of her recording career, and she went out with style, premiering three new works for soprano and strings with the Juilliard Quartet, including Alberto Ginastera’s Third String Quartet, John Harbison’s “The Rewaking”, and Richard Wernick’s String Quartet No. 5.  She delivered her final performance in October 2000.

Her resume is surely an enviable one.  A staple at The Metropolitan Opera in New York, she has portrayed Gilda in Rigoletto, Ilia in Idomeneo, Nanetta in Falstaff, and Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro.

Artists with whom she has worked include Claudio Abbado, Emmanuel Ax, Leonard Bernstein, Christoph Eschenbach, Leon Fleischer, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Sharon Isbin, Erich Leinsdorf, Raymond Leppard, James Levine, Yo-Yo Ma, Kurt Masur, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Cynthia Raim, Leonard Slatkin, Robert Shaw, and Edo de Waart.

Add to that a Grammy award for her rendering of “Quartet No. 2” of Arnold Schoenberg, which she performed in tandem with The Juilliard String Quartet.  She also received the most prestigious accolade handed down from Chamber Music America, the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, in 1999.  At the time, Benita was the first and only singer to have won the prize.

After her retirement in 2000, she devoted herself to teaching at the European Mozart Academy, the Marlboro Music School, and the Stearns Institute for Young Artists, among others.  In 2009, she appeared on the CD re-packaging, Great Singers of the 20th Century, Vol. 1.

Benita Valente recordings
RCA 6559-2-RC  (Gloria!  Gloria!)
Adeste Fidelis (John Francis Wade)
Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia Concerto Soloists
The Philadelphia Singers
Conductor – Michael Korn