Singer Marilyn Horne to receive honorary degree at Commencement

Marilyn Horne

Famed opera singer Marilyn Horne will be one of seven distinguished individuals receiving honorary degrees as part of the Brandeis Commencement exercises on May 17. She will be given the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Horne has been called "probably the greatest singer in the world" (Opera News, 1981). Born in 1934 in Bradford, Pennsylvania, the American mezzo-soprano began her journey toward international stardom with her operatic debut at the age of twenty in the role of Hata in Smetana’s “The Bartered Bride.” That summer, she sang the voice of Carmen Jones in Oscar Hammerstein’s recreation of Bizet’s Carmen. She studied with, among others, William Vennard at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. In 1956, Horne traveled to Germany, and joined the opera company in Gelsenkirchen. She remained there until 1960, appearing in many of the company's productions and receiving rave reviews. By the late 1960s, she began performing regularly in the world's great opera houses. In 1984, she performed Handel's Rinaldo at the Met – the first Handel opera ever performed there.

Horne has been singing for over fifty years and her contributions to the opera world will live on in her numerous recordings, including Meyerbeer's Le Prophète. Today, she works as the Vocal Program Director at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, and has also set up The Marilyn Horne Foundation, which helps to support and educate young singers.

The other honorary degree recipients include renowned conductor James Conlon, Indian environmentalist Rajendra K. Pachauri, choreographer Bill T. Jones, Holocaust survivor and scholar Israel Gutman, Israeli entrepreneur and industrialist Stef Wertheimer, and Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker.

For more information on the honorary degree recipients, or Commencement 2009, visit the Commencement Web site.

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