Friday, February 10, 2017

Leontyne Price at 90

Opera singer, Leontyne Price turns 90 today.  Not only was she one of the great opera sopranos of all time, she was a pioneer for African-Americans in the music world.  I only had a chance to hear her once before she retired, but her recordings have brought me pleasure for many years.

WQXR has a couple of articles on Price.  (here and here)  There are links to several of her performances.  I recommend that you listen to her "Song to the Moon" from Dvorak's Rusalka.  It is truly magnificent.  (Note:  The link seems to start the aria in the middle.  Go back to the beginning to savor the true magnificence of this performance.)

Excerpt from the first article:

"Price never accentuated her fame, preferring to give everyone she encountered a sense of inclusion. Young people would meet her and she would immediately tell them, “it is an honor to meet you," drawing out that word to several syllables with her luscious Mississippi vowels. She never played the grand dame, though she has innate grandeur. She would respond to a compliment saying, “you are more than kind,” again giving those vowels a sumptuousness that literally was music to the ears. I remember the day I met her and so does Renée Fleming, who was a young girl."

"Among all the people I have met in my life, few have had a better memory than she. Her recall of events, faces and names was astounding and served to make others feel valued and respected. She has a lively sense of humor but can also be quite reserved. In fact, her sense of privacy is a key aspect of who she is and, in that spirit, I intend to respect that even though I was privy to some extraordinarily moving and emotional events. What she has given us with her voice and artistry is imbued with her innermost self, and that is where I invite you to encounter her."

A close friend of mine worked with Price when she was with BMG.  She was very kind to him, inviting him to opera dinners and the first Kennedy Center Opera Awards.  I never met Price, but I did have the pleasure of meeting her brother (and manager), General Price, at my friend's 50th birthday party.

Happy 90th Leontyne!

(Scott Fruehwald)

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