Leontyne Price

I’m getting a habit of forgetting birthdays. I meant to post this yesterday but it slipped my mind owing to me writing some bullshit for a grant application.

Anyway, I just wanted to post a birthday greeting to the wonderful Leontyne Price who was 82 years old on Tuesday 10th February. In case you’ve never heard of her, before she retired from the stage she was one of the great opera singers of her generation, famous for her enormous vocal range and smoky mezzo tones. She had a relatively light voice, without the thrilling power or dangerous edge of, say, Maria Callas, but she certainly knew how to use it for a big dramatic effect.

Amongst the many notable things about her was that she was the first black soprano to star at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The great jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, never one to be exaggerated in his praise of other musicians, said of her

I have always been one of her fans because in my opinion she is the greatest female singer ever, the greatest opera singer ever. She could hit anything with her voice. Leontyne’s so good it’s scary. Plus, she can play piano and sing and speak in all those languages… I love the way she sings Tosca. I wore out her recording of that, wore out two sets.

I’m not sure she was the greatest singer ever, and she wasn’t that marvellous as an actress, but she’s definitely up there amongst the very best. I have an old LP of her singing Aida which is truly magnificent (despite all the scratches). In fact, according to a BBC poll in 2007 she was voted the 4th greatest opera singer, behind Maria Callas (who else?), Dame Joan Sutherland, and Victoria de los Angeles. That’s pretty exalted company.

Anyway, the later performances on Youtube aren’t the best, so I’ve picked an older one of her near the peak of her powers, with her voice gorgeously expressive and very fluid in the upper register. Here she is in probably her best role, as the eponymous Aida who, incidentally, is Ethiopian.

Happy Birthday Leontyne Price and very many happy returns!

2 Responses to “Leontyne Price”

  1. I can think of no other soprano who has the richness, earthiness, and spot-on ability to hit notes whether by gliding up to them or by attacking them with pinpoint accuracy. Leontyne Price has been my favorite opera soprano since first hearing her recording of Madama Butterfly in 1970. I was hooked from that moment. I’ve seen her at the MET and SFO in many of her opera performances, and in concert in many more opera and concert houses in cities across the country. She autographed a chalk rendering a friend gave me as a gift and it is a treasured piece. Does anyone have any idea how I might obtain a recording of the radio broadcast of ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ from the performance that opened the new MET in 1966? I have searched every place I can think to look but with no luck. Can anyone help me with this request?

  2. Princess Says:

    Leontyne Price is without a doubt the greatest opera Singer! I heard her at 74 years old in concert. No one else can ever sing Summertime again. Her voice was anything but light. the reason she was so great is because she could utilize her voice in the most versatile way. I am so thankful for her gift, her talent and her struggle!!

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