It is not often that an opera singer shares an award platform with the NBA's Michael Jordan. For "Dixie Diva" Victoria Livengood, the occasion was the 1996 Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony of the University at North Carolina.
She was raised on a farm near Thomasville, North Carolina. At the age of ten, she started singing in a gospel quartet with her parents and her younger brother. She has continued to serve Christ with her music, and has been a church Minister of Music and a missionary and Baptist Church musician in the Ukraine and Paris.
After graduating with honors from UNC in 1983 she entered the Boston Conservatory of Music on a Gottlieb and Pappas Scholarship. She graduated from these advanced studies in 1985 with a Masters of Music degree in Opera. She continued studies and coaching with Armen Boyajian.
She made her professional debut at the Ash Lawn Opera Festival in Charlottesville, Virginia as Cherubino in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.
In 1985, she won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 1985. She went on to win prizes in the Luciano Pavarotti International Vocal Competition, the Rosa Ponselle International Competition, the National Institute of Music Theatre Competition and the D'Angelo Competition. She won grants from the Leiderkranz, Sullivan, and Puccini Foundations. Her awards included two summer apprenticeships at Wolf Trap, near Vienna, Virginia during which she sang several leading roles in 1985 and 1986.
Her Metropolitan Opera debut was in 1991 as Laura in Verdi's Luisa Miller, James Levine conducting. Her performance was critically acclaimed. She was quickly scheduled to sing more performances. During the following decade, she sang over eighty-five performances at the Met. Roles she has sung at America's great opera house include Prince Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus, Queen Isabella in The Voyage, Preziosilla in La Forze del Destino, Waltraute in Die Walküre, Maddalena in Rigoletto, Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby, Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana, and Sonyetka in Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk District.
She has also appeared in opera houses all over America and the rest of the world. In the U.S., she has appeared in the opera companies of Kansas City, Honolulu, Miami, St. Louis, Cleveland, Seattle, and Baltimore. There she has sung roles such as Dalila and Carmen, which has become her signature role.
Her European debut was also in 1991, in Mozart's Idomeneo with L'Opéra de Nice, followed shortly by La Clemenza di Tito. She has also sung at Cologne, Montréal, Calgary, Santiago de Chile, the Spoleto Festival, the Teatro Colón (in Menotti's The Counsel under the composer's direction) and in the Salzburg Festival.
Her most famous role, however, is Bizet's Carmen. German critics have called her "the ideal Carmen for our time ... picture-perfect ... electrifying, soaring, sizzling, seductive, and sensational." She has sung the part in over a dozen and a half houses.
She also frequently performs on the concert stage. Besides more conventional mezzo parts, there she sings such works as Child Alice by Del Tredici, Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky, and Philip Glass' The Civil Wars. For DreamWorks Pictures, she sang When You Believe on the score to the animated film The Prince of Egypt.
She is a frequent recitalist, and often devotes her talents to concerts for such causes as the Leukemia Society, the Epilepsy Foundation, several homeless shelters and hospital guilds, and the Foundation for Children with AIDS. Married to attorney Scott Hester, her high school sweetheart, she makes her home in Jacksonville, Florida with him and his three children, and is active in her Baptist church there.