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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Ticket to opera turns into Laquita Mitchellís inspiration to sing
Jessye Normanís gift sparked vocalist's drive
Published Wednesday, May 16, 2018 11:00 am
by Ashley Mahoney

Laquita Mitchell, who was introduced to opera when soprano Jessye Norman bought her a ticket, stars in Opera Carolina’s production of “I Dream.” 

Meeting Jessye Norman sealed Laquita Mitchell’s fate.

Norman bought Mitchell a ticket to her performance in Richard Wagner’s “Die Walkure” at the Metropolitan Opera House.

“I saw my first opera when I was 14,” said Mitchell, who plays Coretta Scott King in Opera Carolina’s production “I Dream.” “My ticket was bought by the great Jessye Norman, the operatic soprano, and I met her at the age of 14.”

Norman’s performance resonated with Mitchell in a way that made her believe that she could pursue opera as a career.

“When I saw her step out on stage I thought, ‘wow, this is an actual possibility? I had no idea,’” Mitchell said.

A self-described “city kid,” Mitchell had an innate love of music.

“Being a city kid, my interests at that time were all sort of music, but not opera, but when I saw her on stage, I thought ‘wow, that’s possible, and I can do it,’” she said.

Her love story with opera began in that moment.

“Most folks don’t last a whole act of ‘Die Walkure’ of Wagner, but I did, and I enjoy it to this day. It’s one of my favorite operas. I hope that young kids everywhere have that opportunity to see their first opera. Whether they walk away saying, ‘I want to do that,’ or walk away saying, ‘wow, that’s really interesting, I like that’ or ‘I don’t like that,’ or ‘maybe I want to see another one,’ I think that’s really important, that at least they are given the opportunity.”

Mitchell has performed all over the world, attending Westminster Choir College for undergraduate studies, as well as earning a master’s and professional studies certificate from the Manhattan School of Music.

“Music was everywhere growing up,” Mitchell said. “My family is from Central America, and we listened to Spanish music, to salsa, to calypso to all sorts of music [like] reggae, but then my godmother was a classical pianist.”

Walking through her family’s brownstone took Mitchell through a musical journey, as each floor would have a different style playing.

“I would go down two stories, and I’d go into my godmother’s house, and she’d be playing Bach or Handel or church hymns,” she said. “Music was everywhere.”

At 16 years old, Mitchell received an invitation to sing at Carnegie Hall.

“I was asked to sing background for this huge concert at Carnegie Hall. Funny, I sang at Carnegie Hall [last week in world premiere of Paul Moravec’s ‘Sanctuary Road’], and Sting was there, Elton John, Whitney Houston...we backed Aaron Neville, Branford Marsalis. I saw all these singers around me, and I was like, if it’s possible for them, then maybe it’s possible for me. I never really thought, ‘oh, well I can’t do it.’ I didn’t know what it was, but I knew that anything accessible. Anything was possible for me. Whether it was or not, I’m not sure, but in my mind, I thought, ‘well if they could do it.’ I was that ignorant to think that I could do it, but whatever the case may be, but all of that experience rubbed off on me, and it was great.”    


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