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    Price, Leontyne (10th February 1927-Present)

    She is a soprano born Mary Violet Leontyne Price in Laurel, Mississippi.  Her father was a lumber mill worker and her mother a housewife.  When her parents noticed her musical talents they used their phonograph as a trade-in for a down payment on an upright piano and she began lessons.  Her mother worked as a maid at the house of an upper class family and they would often ask her to sing for them at their family events. She studied at the Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio and her glee club appearances led to solo performances which helped her to complete her voice studies.  With the help of Paul Robeson and the family her mother worked for she was able to study at the Juilliard School.  Her debut as a stage performer was in Verdi's Falstaff which was attended by the composer Virgil Thomson and he immediately hired her to perform in his opera Four Saints in Three Acts.  Her big break was playing Bess in Porgy and Bess and she toured in the production throughout America and then Europe.  She married the singer William Warfield, who had played Porgy to her Bess, in the early 1950s, but they separated in 1958 and divorced in 1972 with William stating in his memoirs that "their careers soon forced them apart".  She became a specialist in modern music by composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Samuel Barber, whom she sang with as he played the piano in his premiere of Hermit Songs.  The two of them were both together again for her New York recital debut.  She returned to opera when The Met invited her to sing "Summertime" at a fundraiser and it is thought that she was the first African-American to "sing for the Met and with the Met, even if not with the company in the house".  There was controversy over her casting in Tosca for the NBC-TV Opera in 1955 which caused many of the affiliates not to broadcast the production.  After auditioning for Herbert von Karajan at Carnegie Hall it is said that he pushed the pianist to one side, accompanied her himself and immediately asked her to sing for him at the Vienna State Opera after she had refused him for La Scala.  The next 10 years saw the two of them performing together in many productions.  She has since sung in the major operatic venues worldwide, often in her acclaimed role in Aida.  After a performance at the Met she and her leading man, Franco Corelli, received a 42 minute ovation.  She is seen as being instrumental in the acceptance of African-Americans in opera and continued to give performances even after her retirement.  She has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors, a Lifetime Achievement Grammy and 19 Grammy Awards.


    O Holy Night (Adolphe Charles Adam)

    Decca 468 503-2 (CD - Christmas Adagios)

    Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

    Conductor - Herbert von Karajan

    Soprano - Leontyne Price


    O Holy Night (Adolphe Charles Adam)

    Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

    London 421 103-2 (CD - Christmas Songs)

    Soprano - Leontyne Price



    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leontyne_Price#Life_and_career


    Here she is singing George Gershwin's "Summertime" for Jimmy Carter at the White House....









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