Meet The Performers

Visiting Artist

Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald is unparalleled in the breadth and versatility of her artistry as both singer and actress. With a record-tying five Tony Awards®, two Grammy Awards®, and a long list of other accolades to her name, she is among today’s most highly regarded performers. Blessed with a luminous soprano and an incomparable gift for dramatic truth-telling, she is equally at home on Broadway and opera stages as in roles on film and television. In addition to her theatrical work, she maintains a major career as a concert and recording artist, regularly appearing on the great stages of the world.

Born into a musical family, McDonald grew up in Fresno, California and received her classical vocal training at the Juilliard School. A year after graduating, she won her first Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Carousel at Lincoln Center Theater, directed by Nicholas Hytner. She also received Tony Awards for her performances in Terrence McNally’s Master Class (1996) and Ahrens & Flaherty’s Ragtime (1998). In 2004 she won her fourth Tony for A Raisin in the Sun, and in 2012 she won her fifth—and her first in the leading actress category—for The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, placing her in the illustrious company of Broadway legends Julie Harris and Angela Lansbury as the only people in Tony history to win five performance awards. McDonald’s other theater credits include The Secret Garden (1993), Marie Christine (1999), Henry IV (2004), 110 in the Shade (2007), and her Public Theater “Shakespeare in the Park” debut in Twelfth Night alongside Anne Hathaway (2009).

On the concert stage, McDonald has premiered music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams and sung with virtually every major American orchestra – including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony – and under such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Leonard Slatkin. In the fall of 2013, she embarks on a twenty-two city North American concert tour with appearances in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, and Houston, among others.

As an exclusive Nonesuch recording artist, McDonald’s new album, Go Back Home, is her most personal recording to date, featuring songs by Stephen Sondheim, Adam Guettel, Kander & Ebb, and introducing a new generation of songwriters including Adam Gwon and Goldrich & Heisler.

A familiar face on PBS, McDonald is the series host of Live from Lincoln Center, which televised her recent solo concert for Lincoln Center’s Spring Gala. She was also featured in the PBS television special “A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House,” singing at the request of President Obama and the First Lady. McDonald has appeared three times on the Kennedy Center Honors, been profiled by 60 Minutes and the Today Show, been a guest on Charlie Rose, the Megan Mullally Show, the Rosie O’Donnell Show, Tavis Smiley, The Wendy Williams Show, and The Colbert Report, and has guest co-hosted on The View with Barbara Walters. After receiving an Emmy nomination for her performance in the HBO film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit, directed by Mike Nichols, McDonald reprised her Tony-winning role in A Raisin in the Sun in a made-for-television movie adaption, earning a second Emmy Award nomination. From 2007 to 2011, she played Dr. Naomi Bennett on the hit ABC medical drama, Private Practice.

McDonald’s other accolades include four Drama Desk Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards, four NAACP Image Awards nominations, an Ovation Award, a Theatre World Award, and the Drama League’s 2000 Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre and 2012 Distinguished Performance Award. In addition to her five Tony Awards, she received nominations for her performances in Marie Christine and 110 in the Shade.

Please note: Biographies on the CSO website are based on the information that was most recently provided to the CSO by the artists or their representatives. More current information may be available on the artists' own websites or those of their representatives.