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Martina Arroyo receives Kennedy Center Honors, December 29 on CBS

Posted at 9:05 AM on December 27, 2013 by Jay Gabler
Filed under: Awards & Accomplishments

Martina Arroyo's soprano was among the great opera voices of the 20th century. Her three-decade career, stretching from the 1960s to the 1990s, most notably included many years as a favorite at the Metropolitan Opera, excelling in classic roles such as Donna Anna and Aida.

Adding to the importance of Arroyo's achievement is the fact that she was one of the first African-American artists to perform at the level of an international opera star. ("No, honey, I'm the other one," she once told a Met doorman who mistook her for Leontyne Price.)

Arroyo has now been recognized among the recipients of 2013 Kennedy Center Honors, putting her in the strange but welcome company of Billy Joel, Shirley MacLaine, Herbie Hancock, and Carlos Santana. The ceremony honoring this year's recipients took place on December 8; it will be broadcast December 29 on CBS at 8:00 p.m. CST.

Below, watch a 2010 interview with Arroyo in which she discusses her career — starting with her parents' initial suspicion of opera as an art form. "When I told them that I wanted to sing in the opera," Arroyo remembers, "my father thought it was something like being a can-can girl."