Bill Rancic Defends His Wife Giuliana After Fashion Police Controversy: 'I Tried to Get Them to Release the Footage' 41 years, 2,185 covers and 55,435 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- Kendra Wilkinson Opens up on Life after 30: 'My Biggest Milestone Yet'
- Read the Cover Story: Growing Up Kennedy!
Exclusive Family Photos from White House Nanny
- New Instagram Account Wants to Know Your 'The Way We Met' Story
- Jessa (Duggar) Seewald Posts 22-Week Bump Pic: 'Baby Seewald Weighs Just Over a Pound'
- Former CNN Anchor Lynne Russell and Husband Involved in Deadly Gun Battle with Robber
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- September 03, 1979
- Vol. 12
- No. 10
Diva Leona Mitchell Also Chews Up Tenors and Impresarios, but for Opera Fans, It's Love at First Bite
"I've learned to pack for four months," says the L.A.-based Mitchell. "I guess that's a sign of success." But she also finds opera in the jet age "very disorienting. No one yet knows the toll on the voice from all that travel and flying." It doesn't hurt the pocketbook, however. She is able to turn down more engagements than she accepts now that her performance fee has inflated from $1,000 to $4,000 within three years.
Leona grew up in Enid, Okla. in a home accustomed to neither money nor prima donnas. Her father was a Pentecostal minister who had to preach to two congregations to make worldly ends meet. Her mom worked as a nurse even during her frequent pregnancies. Leona had 14 brothers and sisters. "I realized how many kids there were," she says, "when I was old enough to wash the dishes."
She sang in the church choir but still had no formal training when on raw talent she won the first full scholarship granted a singer by Oklahoma City University. The first opera she ever saw she also performed in. "It was a workshop production of something called The Story of Ruth," Mitchell recounts. "I had to be dragged into it. When you're from Enid, you've hardly even heard of opera. I was a freshman and thought Moon River was serious music." Yet after graduation she became the youngest person to win an audition for the San Francisco Opera, and her career blossomed further with regional work and the tutelage of her mentor, Ernest St. Jack Metz, who also coached Leontyne Price. When the Met asked her to sing Micaëla in Carmen in 1975, Mitchell admits, "I wasn't ready. I was in shock. God must have smiled on me."
Mitchell's one tragic setback was personal: Her husband of two years, a Vietnam vet from her hometown, died in a car crash. That was in 1973, and she plans to remarry next year. Her man is Elmer Bush, an L.A. schoolteacher who moonlights with a gospel group, the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers. Leona's other escapes are discoing, bowling and junk food, which the full-figured soprano tries to watch. But planning and pacing her career is her biggest concern. "I've seen too many go too fast and burn out," says Mitchell, adding, in an allusion particularly meaningful to her: "There are a lot of good singers washing dishes."
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!