National Endowment for the Arts Statement on the Death of NEA Opera Honoree Risë Stevens
It is with great sadness that the National Endowment for the Arts acknowledges the passing of 2011 NEA Opera Honoree Risë Stevens. A mezzo-soprano who was trained in Europe, Stevens was known and respected worldwide for her vibrant career in opera. Stevens performed in 353 performances at the Metropolitan Opera – including 124 performances in the title role of Bizet's Carmen – before retiring from the Met in 1961. She went on to assume several important roles in the development of the future of opera in the United States, including co-director of the Met's newly created National Company in 1964, which was dedicated to taking opera on tour to dozens of American cities where opera was not available; president of the Mannes College of Music (1975-78); and as advisor on the Young Artist Development Program at the Met and executive director of its National Council Auditions (1980-88). The NEA joins many in the opera community and beyond in mourning this loss while celebrating Risë Stevens's life, career, and many contributions to the advancement of young opera singers.