Sutton Foster, Patina Miller, Karen Olivo, Glenn Close, Anna Kendrick and More Took Part in Kennedy Center Honors; Details Revealed

By Andrew Gans
09 Dec 2013

Martina Arroyo
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayer began the tribute to honoree Martina Arroyo by saying, “I’m here for the diva. Now we justices are fond of using words precisely. Long before diva took on a different meaning, it meant the most celebrated of female opera singers – generally a soprano of rare talent. As a derivative of an Italian word meaning ‘goddess,’ it was used sparingly to describe only those opera singers who took us to another world. Now that’s the kind of diva I’m talking about. That’s Martina Arroyo. Martina always had the raw talent – a soaring, lyrical, captivating voice that transports her listeners. But to be a real diva, you need more. First, you need grit, determination, passion and dedication to your craft. Born into a world in which it took until 1955 for the first female singer of color to appear at the Met, Martina faced an uphill battle. With the help of incredible parents who taught her that she could accomplish anything, she never gave up.”

Sotomayer continued, “Another quality you need to be a true diva is heart. I’m convinced Martina’s voice couldn’t be that beautiful if it weren’t connected to a heart that’s beautiful. She is the most giving person – lavishing warmth, care, and attention on her colleagues, many friends, and legions of students. We bonded with each other – a kid from Harlem and another from the South Bronx – over a love of mothers and a sympathetic understanding of the value of people. Finally, I think you can be a diva without a sense of humor, but you can’t be my diva. I just love Martina’s gentle wit. When the great diva of color Leontyne Price was also appearing at the Met, the stage doorman greeted Martina saying, ‘Good evening, Miss Price.’ She sweetly replied, ‘No, honey, I’m the other one.’ …Martina Arroyo is full of life, one of the girls, a sensitive teacher, a lover of people, and a brilliant artist. That’s how I like my divas. That’s why I love my friend Martina Arroyo.”

The tribute to Martina Arroyo was a Verdi celebration featuring the music of “Aida,” commencing with tenor opera singer Joseph Calleja singing “Celeste Aida.” Next, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky performed “O Patria Mia.” Then the United States Naval Academy Glee Club and Army Herald Trumpets took the stage for the “Triumphal March,” followed by the “Finale from Act II,” sung by Arroyo’s protégés Ryan Speedo Green, Robert Kerr, Yuriy Yurchuk and Chantelle Grant, who were joined by Joseph Calleja and Sondra Radvanovsky for the tribute’s moving conclusion.

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