The distinguished American soprano, Benita Valente, began serious musical training with Chester Hayden at Delano High School. At 16, she became a private pupil of Lotte Lehmann, and at 17 received a scholarship to continue her studies with Lotte Lehmann at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, where she got her initial professional music experience. From Lotte Lehmann she learned "how music comes to life". There she also met and collaborated with Marilyn Horne. In 1955 she won a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she studied with Martial Singher.
Upon graduation in 1960, she made her formal debut in a Marlboro (Vermount) Festival concert. At Marlboro Festival she performed with Rudolf Serkin, Felix Galimir and Harold Wright. In October 1960 she made her New York concert debut at the New School for Social Research. After winning the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 1960, she pursued further studies with Margaret Harshaw. She then sang with the Freiburg im Breisgau Opera, making her debut there as Parnina in Die Zauberflöte in 1962. After appearances with the Nuremberg Opera in 1966, she returned to the USA and established herself as a versatile recitalist, soloist with orchestra, and opera singer. Her interpretation of Pamina was especially well received, and it was in that role that she made her long-awaited Metropolitan Opera debut in New York in September 1973. Her roles at the Metropolitan Opera have included also Gilda, Nanetta, Susanna, Ilia, and Almirena. Other roles include Euridice at Santa Fe, the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro in Washington, and Dalilah in Florence. Festival appearances include Tanglewood, Aspen, Ravinia, Grand Tetons, Santa Fe, Vienna, Edinburgh, and Lyon.
Benita Valente has been an internationally celebrated interpreter of Lieder, chamber music, oratorio, and opera. Her keen musicianship encompasses an astounding array of styles, from the Baroque of J.S. Bach and George Frideric Handel to the varied idioms of today's leading composers. She won praise for her performances in operas by Monteverdi, G.F. Handel, Verdi, Puccini, and Benjamin Britten. Her extensive recital and concert repertoire ranges from Schubert to Alberto Ginastera. Especially noted for her collaborations with living composers, she has sung in many chamber music and recital peformances, often in world premieres. She is one of this era's most cherished musical artists.
As the soprano in residence at the prestigious Marlboro Festival her performances and recordings with the legendary pianist Rudolf Serkin won great acclaim. Other major chamber music collaborators have included the Guarneri and Juilliard and Orion String Quartets, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, guitarist Sharon Isbin and pianists Peter Serkin, Emanuel Ax, Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, Malcolm Bilson and Cynthia Raim. Benita Valente has been orchestral soloist with virtually every important conductor and orchestra in the world. She has sung under the batons of Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Bernardi, Leonard Bernstein, Sergiu Comissiona, Conlon, Edo de Waart, Christoph Eschenbach, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Rafael Kubelík, Erich Leinsdorf, Raymond Leppard, James Levine, Kurt Masur, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Robert Shaw, Leonard Slatkin and Tennstedt, and with every major symphony in the USA, Canada and Europe.
Benita Valente has been recorded by seventeen recording companies. She received a Grammy Award for her recording of Arnold Schoenberg's Quartet No.2 and a Grammy nomination for her recording of Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ, both performed with The Juilliard String Quartet. Her recent recordings include music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Debussy, and Bolcom.
Benita Valente was the 1999 Recipient of Chamber Music America's Highest Award: The Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, the first vocalist to receive the award in its twenty-year history. In October 26, 2000 the song is over: She sang for the last time on Sunday. Reflecting on 40 years in music, she talks about colleagues great and difficult, a secret desire to sing Wagner - and wars with Eugene Ormandy.