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Mary Costa
Mary Costa 1976.JPG
Mary Costa in 1976
Born (1930-04-05) April 5, 1930 (age 91)
Alma materLos Angeles Conservatory of Music
OccupationOpera singer, actress
Years active1942–2000 (acting)
Notable work
Voice of Aurora in Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959)
(m. 1953; div. 1966)
AwardsDisney Legend (1999)

Mary Costa (born April 5, 1930) is an American retired opera singer and actress. Her most notable film credit is providing the voice of Princess Aurora in the 1959 Disney animated film Sleeping Beauty, of which she is the last surviving original voice actress of the first three Disney Princesses created in Walt Disney's lifetime and for which she was named a Disney Legend in 1999.[1] Costa is an operatic soprano.[2] She is a recipient of the 2020 National Medal of Arts.


Costa was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on April 5, 1930, where she lived for much of her childhood. She's of Italian descent and was raised Baptist.[3][4] She sang Sunday school solos at the age of six. At Knoxville High School (Tennessee), she sang in the chorus.[5] When she was in her early teens, her family relocated to Los Angeles, California, where she completed high school and won a Music Sorority Award as the outstanding voice among Southern California high school seniors. Following high school, she entered the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music to study with famed maestro Gaston Usigli. Between 1948 and 1951, she appeared with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on the Bergen radio show. She also sang with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in concerts at UCLA, and made numerous commercials for Lux Radio Theatre.[6]

In 1952, after meeting people at a party with her future husband, director Frank Tashlin, she auditioned for the part of Disney's Princess Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty, in Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959). Walt Disney called her personally within hours of the audition to inform her that the part was hers. In 1958, Costa was called upon to substitute for Elisabeth Schwarzkopf at a gala concert in the Hollywood Bowl, conducted by Carmen Dragon. Thanks to glowing reviews from that performance, she was invited to sing the lead in her first fully staged operatic production, The Bartered Bride, produced by the renowned German producer, Carl Ebert, for the Los Angeles Guild Opera. Ebert later requested she appear at the Glyndebourne Festival, where she debuted.[7]

Costa went on to perform in 44 operatic roles on stages throughout the world, including Jules Massenet's Manon at the Metropolitan Opera, and Violetta in La Traviata at the Royal Opera House in London and the Bolshoi in Moscow, and Cunegonde in the 1959 London premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Candide. In 1961, for RCA, she recorded Musetta in La bohème, opposite Anna Moffo and Richard Tucker, with the Rome Opera House Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Erich Leinsdorf.

Among roles which she sang for the San Francisco Opera, she was Tytania in the American premiere of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1961), Ninette in the world premiere of Norman Dello Joio's Blood Moon (1961), and Anne Truelove in the San Francisco premiere of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Violetta in La Traviata on January 6, 1964.[4]

Costa impressed television audiences throughout her career with guest appearances on many shows, such as Bing Crosby's Christmas Show on NBC-TV. She appeared with Crosby and Sergio Franchi on The Hollywood Palace in 1970. She also appeared on Frank Sinatra's Woman of the Year Timex Special for NBC, where, with others, she was honored as one of the Women of the Year. In 1972, Sammy Davis Jr. asked her to appear on his first NBC Follies, in which she performed a blues selection with Sammy, backed up by Charlie Parker.[citation needed]

Jacqueline Kennedy asked her to sing at a memorial service for her husband, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, from the Los Angeles Sports Arena in 1963. She sang for the inaugural concert of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1971. In 1972, she starred in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer feature The Great Waltz, depicting the life of Johann Strauss II. Additional movie credits include The Big Caper (1957) and Marry Me Again (1953).[citation needed]

Later years

Having retired from acting in her 70th year in 2000, Costa has dedicated her later years to inspiring children and teenagers, giving motivational talks at schools and colleges across the country. She is also a celebrity endorser for child abuse prevention. She continues to do promotional appearances for Disney, most recently for the Blu-ray release of Sleeping Beauty and the 50th anniversary of the film.[8]

In 1989, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation. When Disney began releasing videocassette versions of its animated films, Costa was one of three actresses to file lawsuits over royalties for their performances; at the time of Costa's 1989 filing, Peggy Lee of Lady and the Tramp (1955) later won her lawsuit in April 1990 and Ilene Woods of Cinderella (1950) filed hers in December 1990.[citation needed] Voice actress Jennifer Hale replaced Costa as the voice of Aurora in 2001. In November 1999, she received the Disney Legends Award, and her handprints are now a permanent part of the Disney Legends Plaza at the entrance to Disney Studios. In 2000 she was selected as the Tennessee Woman of Distinction by the American Lung Association. And in April 2001, she was honored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild for Distinguished Verdi Performances of the 20th Century. In 2003 she was appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Council on the Arts, where she served until 2007. In December 2007, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree by Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee. On November 2, 2007, she was inducted into the Knoxville Opera Hall of Fame. Earlier she had launched the inaugural Knoxville Opera season in 1978 as Violetta in La Traviata.[citation needed]

In 2012, Costa served as the commencement speaker at Pellissippi State graduation ceremony.[9] On November 10, 2014, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane and Musical Letters from the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In 2014, Costa was named one of the YWCA Knoxville's Tribute to Women Honorees during the 30th anniversary celebration. On March 17, 2015 she was a recipient of Tennessee's 2015 Governor's Arts Award.[10] On her 86th birthday, Costa wrote an open letter to her fans thanking them for their support.[11] She also announced that she would no longer directly reply to fan-mail, but she would continue to sign autographs and meet fans at events while also focusing her efforts on working with young children.[12] In August 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Costa once again thanked fans for their continued support but also announced that she would no longer respond to any fan-mail at all due to the overwhelming amount she received following her 90th birthday.[13][14] She was awarded the National Medal of Arts on January 13, 2021.[15][16]


Year Title Role Notes
1953 Marry Me Again Joan
1957 The Big Caper Kay
1959 Sleeping Beauty Princess Aurora Voice
1972 The Great Waltz Jetty Treffz
2000 Titus Andronicus Mourner [17]


  • Cummings, David (ed.), "Costa, Mary, International Who's Who in Classical Music, Routledge, 2003, p. 158; ISBN 1-85743-174-X
  • Hayes, John "2 with Futures to Follow: Mary Costa and Marilyn Horne", Billboard, May 16, 1964, p. 38
  • Hollis, Tim and Ehrbar, Greg, Mouse tracks: the story of Walt Disney Records, Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2006, p. 52; ISBN 1-57806-849-5
  • Kennedy, Michael and Bourne, Joyce, Mary Costa profile, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music, Oxford University Press, 1996 (accessed via on January 26, 2010)
  • Metropolitan Opera, Performance Record: Costa, Mary profile,; accessed August 12, 2014.
  • Sleeman, Elizabeth (ed.), Mary Costa profile, The International Who's Who of Women, Routledge, 2001, p. 116; ISBN 1-85743-122-7
  • The Walt Disney Company, Disney Legends: Mary Costa m; accessed January 26, 2010.


  1. ^ Moran, Kelsey (October 5, 2016). "The Real-Life Actresses Behind Your Favorite Disney Princesses". The Odyssey. Archived from the original on January 2, 2019. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  2. ^ "Analyzing the Singing of Five Disney Princesses". Musical Theatre Resources. November 24, 2015.
  3. ^ "ITALIANS IN HOLLYWOOD - Italian American Museum of Los Angeles". Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  4. ^ a b Mary Costa: Knoxville's sleeping beauty Retrieved January 2, 2020
  5. ^ The Trojan 1946 (Knoxville High School yearbook, "Music" section). 1946.
  6. ^ Once Upon A Dream: Mary Costa as Sleeping Beauty‘s Princess Aurora Animated Views, Retrieved January 2, 2020
  7. ^ Glyndebourne, Retrieved January 2, 2020
  8. ^ Mary Costa Interview Ultimate Disney, Retrieved May 31, 2016
  9. ^ "Pellissippi State: Opera legend Mary Costa to serve as Commencement speaker". Archived from the original on October 29, 2012.
  11. ^ Original voice of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, now 86, shares sweet letter to fans Entertainment Weekly, Retrieved April 6, 2016
  12. ^ An Open Letter From Mary Costa (The Voice of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty") Archived 2016-04-07 at the Wayback Machine Indiwire, Retrieved April 6, 2016
  13. ^ The 90-Year-Old Voice Of Sleeping Beauty Asks Disney Fans To Stop Contacting Her Cartoon Brew, August 13, 2020
  14. ^ Sleeping Beauty Actress Asks Fans to Finally Let Her Rest Inside the Magic, August 13, 2020
  15. ^ Knoxville Opera singer, voice of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Mary Costa honored at White House WATE, January 14, 2021
  16. ^ Hutter, Victoria (January 15, 2021). "National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Congratulates Recipients of the 2020 National Medal of Arts". Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  17. ^ Puchko, Kristy (January 17, 2013). "Mary Costa, Aurora – Disney Princesses Then and Now". TheFW. Screencrush Network. Retrieved March 29, 2014.

External links

This page was last edited on 10 July 2021, at 16:15
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