Lyric soprano Benita Valente was born in California and graduated from the Curtis Institute in 1960. Among her teachers were Lotte Lehmann and Margaret Harshaw, and although she made her debut at the Freiburg Opera in 1962, most of her singing career was based in the United States. Valente is highly regarded for her singing of Mozart; she was among the performers at the debut of Lincoln Center's 1966 Mostly Mozart Festival, and made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1973 as Pamina in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in 1973. Valente is nonetheless very versatile, interpreting music ranging from Handel to Libby Larsen.
Although Valente has appeared in opera productions, primarily at the Met, she is best known as a recitalist and an expert interpreter of art songs. Composer William Bolcom dedicated his song cycle Briefly It Enters to Valente, and she sang it as part of her farewell recital, held at Lincoln Center. Benita Valente has recorded for MCA Classics, Centaur, RCA-Victor, Sony Classical, Erato, Bridge Records, CRI, Desmar, New World, and Koch International. Valente has appeared at most of the major music festivals, including Marlboro, Ravinia, and the Cincinnati May Festival and with all of the major American and Canadian symphony orchestras. Valente also has specialized in the rarified format of the soprano who sings with a string quartet, and her 1977 recording of the Schoenberg String Quartet No. 2 with the Juilliard String Quartet was honored with a Grammy win. In 1999, she was honored by Chamber Music America with a special award recognizing her contributions to chamber music. Since her retirement, most of her efforts have been directed toward teaching. Benita Valente is not to be confused with the European popular singing Caterina Valente.