Today's Birthdays

one click shows all of today's celebrity birthdays

Browse All Birthdays

43,625    Actors
27,931    Actresses
4,867    Composers
7,058    Directors
842    Footballers
221    Racing drivers
925    Singers
9,111    Writers

Get FamousLikeMe on your website
One line of code gets FamousLikeMe on your website. Find out more.

Subscribe to Daily updates

Add to Google

privacy policy

Famous Like Me > Actress > P > Leontyne Price

Profile of Leontyne Price on Famous Like Me

Name: Leontyne Price  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 10th February 1927
Place of Birth: Laurel, Mississippi, USA
Profession: Actress
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

The soprano Mary Violet Leontyne Price (born February 10, 1927) is an African American opera singer. She was best known for her Verdi roles, above all Aida, a role that she is said to have "owned" for almost 30 years. Her rise to international fame was one of several breakthroughs by African Americans in the 1960s, and, more than that, represented a new high water mark for American classical singing on the world's stages, equaled only by soprano Rosa Ponselle's fame in the 1930s.

Price was born in a segregated black neighborhood of Laurel, Mississippi. Her father worked in a lumber mill and her mother was a midwife with a rich singing voice. They noticed Leontyne's talent early and traded in the family phonograph for a small piano. The girl's studies were also encouraged by an affluent white family in Laurel, the Chisholms, who often asked her to sing at family events. Aiming for a teaching career, Leontyne enrolled on a scholarship in the music education program at Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio, but completed her studies in voice. With the help of the great bass Paul Robeson and the Chisholms, she obtained a scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York City, where she became a prized pupil of Florence Page Kimball.

Leontyne Price's first opera performance was as Mistress Quickly in a Juilliard production of Verdi's Falstaff. Composer Virgil Thomson, who heard that performance, hired her immediately to sing in a revival of his opera, Four Saints in Three Acts. Her first public acclaim came as Bess in a successful 1954 Broadway and international revival of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. After the run, Price married her Porgy, William Warfield, an acclaimed baritone in oratorio and lieder as well as film and Broadway. (They were divorced in 1972.)

In 1955, NBC TV Opera engaged Price to sing a performance in English of Giacomo Puccini's Tosca. Offended by the casting of a black singer, several NBC affiliates canceled the broadcast, but Price's performance was a big critical success. A CD of that performance is available that reveals a young soprano with a fluttery vibrato, clear English diction, and a shining top register.

Price's professional operatic debut came as Madame Lidoine in the 1957 U.S. premiere of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites at the San Francisco Opera. In 1958, she was invited by Herbert von Karajan to make her first European operatic appearance, as Aida, at the Vienna State Opera. Price and von Karajan became famous collaborators in the opera house (notably 1962 Salzburg performances of Verdi's Il Trovatore, available on CD) and concert hall (a Verdi Requiem at La Scala, for example, available on DVD), and on landmark recordings of Tosca, Carmen, and one of the most popular of all holiday albums, "A Christmas Offering," all available on CD.

On July 2, 1958, Price made her British debut, as Aida, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Two years later, on May 21, 1960, again as Aida, she appeared at Milan's Teatro alla Scala, becoming the first black singer to sing a leading role in the historic home of Italian opera.

Leontyne Price in her breakthrough role in Porgy and Bess

This royal progress of debuts was crowned on January 27, 1961 with her first performances at the Metropolitan Opera as Leonora in Verdi's Il Trovatore. Her partner was the Italian tenor Franco Corelli, who was also appearing for the first time at the Met. Their jonit electricity generated a 42-minute ovation. The next day, New York Timescritic Harold Schonberg wrote: "[Price's] voice was dusky and rich in its lower tones, perfectly even in its transitions from one register to another, and flawlessly pure and velvety at the top." Several black artists had sung at the Met since the contralto Marian Anderson broke the race barrier at the house in 1955 (among them Robert McFerrin, the father of popular singer Bobby McFerrin, and Mattiwillda Dobbs), but Price was the first African-American opera singer to be acclaimed abroad and at home.

Over the next 24 years, Price sang 201 performances in 16 roles at the Met (and on tour with the company), including Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni and Fiordiligi in his "Cosi fan tutte," Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Cio-Cio-San in Puccini's Madama Butterfly, and Ariadne in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos. At the opening of the Met's new house at Lincoln Center in 1966, Price sang Cleopatra in the premiere of Antony and Cleopatra by Samuel Barber, an opera that Barber tailored to the soaring quality of Price's voice.

Critics generally agree, however, that it was the Verdi heroines, with their high lines and passionate outbursts, that best suited Price's voice and personality--notably the five "middle period" Verdi roles of Aida, the Leonoras of Il Trovatore and La Forza del Destino, Elvira in "Ernani," and Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera. Price's operatic farewell came in 1985 in a live "Aida" that was telecast nationally. She continued to give recitals with programs that mixed melodies, lieder, Spirituals, an operatic aria or two, and American art songs by Barber, Ned Rorem and Lee Hoiby (many written for her). Her final recital was given on November 19, 1997 in Chapel Hill, N.C. She continues to teach master classes at the Juilliard and other schools. In 1997, she published a children's book version of "Aida," which became the basis for the Broadway musical by Elton John and Tim Rice, which opened in 2000.

In September 2001, at 73, Leontyne Price came out of retirement to sing "God Bless America" and her favorite spiritual, "This Little Light of Mine," in a Carnegie Hall memorial concert for victims of the World Trade Center attacks. She lives in Greenwich Village in New York City.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Leontyne Price