Viva la Diva! This summer, the Music Academy of the West presents the 2014 Carmen Celebration; a special series of events in honor of the legendary opera singer Marilyn Horne’s 80th birthday.

As part of this special series, the Music Academy is pleased to partner with Old Spanish Days to celebrate Horne, the director of the Music Academy’s Voice Program, in conjunction with her 80th birthday, and recognize her with the official title, “Honorary La Diva of Old Spanish Days.”

On Wednesday, July 23 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., the Music Academy will host a special private event to commemorate this extraordinary occasion. The program will include special performances from the Music Academy’s production of Bizet’s Carmen and the 2014 Spirit of the Fiesta. The Music Academy will present a new, fully staged production of Carmen, directed by David Paul, conducted by James Gaffigan and featuring State Street Ballet dancers at Santa Barbara’s Granada Theatre on Aug. 1 and 3.

“Marilyn Horne embodies the very spirit of our extraordinary performing arts and cultural community in Santa Barbara, and Old Spanish Days is the perfect partner to help us commemorate our Carmen Celebration in honor of her 80th birthday,” said Scott Reed, president of the Music Academy of the West. “We are thrilled to bestow this honor upon a legend, and true legacy of the Music Academy of the West.”

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Fiesta Historical Parade, one of the largest equestrian parades in the United States, and will take place on Friday, Aug. 1. As part of the Carmen Celebration festivities, during the parade Horne will ride in an antique carriage sponsored by the Music Academy’s presenting sponsor, Montecito Bank & Trust, accompanied by Montecito Bank & Trust Chairman Michael Towbes, Montecito Bank & Trust President/CEO Janet Garufis and Music Academy President Scott Reed. The Granada Theatre will also commemorate the honor of Horne’s title, “Honorary La Diva of Old Spanish Days,” on the theater’s marquis.

Horne has long been recognized as one of the most influential artists to portray Carmen of all time. Her first major professional engagement was in 1954, when she dubbed the singing voice of Dorothy Dandridge in the film Carmen Jones. Horne went on to sing the title role in Bizet’s Carmen to open the Metropolitan Opera’s 1972-73 season, which featured Leonard Bernstein as conductor, and would garner a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording in 1974.

In addition to her accolades for her role as Carmen, Horne’s distinguished career has garnered her numerous honors, including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Gramophone magazine. She was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1995, received the National Medal of Arts in 1992, and has been inducted into the American Classical Music and Hollywood Bowl halls of fame. Among her worldwide prizes are the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters from France’s Ministry of Culture. She was named a National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honors recipient in 2009.

Horne, who attended the Music Academy in 1953, has been a member of the Music Academy faculty since 1995, and has directed the academy’s renowned Voice Program since 1997.

Please save the date for these upcoming performances.

» Opera Covers Performance in Lehmann at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 22

» Carmen Opera Performances, Friday, Aug. 1 and Sunday, Aug. 3

» Vocal Masterclass with Marilyn Horne on Wednesday, Aug. 6

— Sydney Gardner is a publicist representing the Music Academy of the West.