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 Singher.
Upon graduation in 1960, she made her formal debut in a Marlboro (Vermont) 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 also included 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 especially noted for her collaborations with living composers, she has sung in many chamber music and recital performances, 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 Stolzman, guitarist Sharon Isbin and pianists Peter Serkin, Emmanual 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, Comissiona, Conlon, de Waart, Eschenbach, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Kubelik, Leinsdorf, Raymond Leppard, James Levine, Kurt Masur, Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Robert Shaw, 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 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 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.