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Leontyne Price

American soprano Leontyne Price celebrates her 90th birthday on 10 February. Leonine by name and by nature, she was an indomitable force whose regally assured vocal qualities won over audiences and critics on the recital platform and on record. Why, then, did some critics feel that she was never quite at ease on the operatic stage?



Leontyne Price’s luscious, powerfully textured voice was capable of stunning effect, acclaimed for her mastery in Verdi and Puccini roles. As Amelia, Aida, Liù, Cio-Cio-San, and Leonora from La forza del destino and Trovatore, Price shone. None of her contemporaries outdid the visceral force and conviction with which she hurled the final ‘Maledizione!’ in the aria ‘Pace, pace mio Dio!’ from Verdi’s Forza.

Price’s historic role as one of the first African-American prima donnas at the Metropolitan Opera is well-known, yet her potential seemed at times to overshadow even her great accomplishments. Born in Laurel, Mississippi in 1927, by 1961 she had already suffered a vocal crisis, months after her Metropolitan Opera debut in Il trovatore. She had refused an offer to make her Met debut in 1958 as Aida, on the grounds that her first appearance on America’s leading opera stage should not be as a slave.

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About Opera Now

Baritone Thomas Hampson discusses his influential role as ambassador for opera and the art of singing; composer John Adams on turning 70 and his new opera about the California Gold Rush; Grange Park Opera gets ready for its relaunch at Britain's newest opera house; and the indomitable prowess of the great American soprano Leontyne Price. Plus, introducing a new opera inspired by Pink Floyd's The Wall; movement and pictures in the stagings of Japanese-born director Anna Etsuko Tsuri; the revelations of Dame Felicity Lott; American opera in the age of Trump; a weekend in Boston; and our pick of the best new works coming up stateside.