Mary Violet Leontyne Price was born 81 years ago in Laurel, Mississippi. Trained in music from the age of 5, she sang in her church and in her high-school choir.
She would become the first African-American vocalist to gain international fame in opera.
In 1952, soon after graduating from Juilliard, Ms. Price was hand-picked by Ira Gershwin to sing the role of Bess in a revival of “Porgy and Bess.” This production was a hit in New York and a sensation in Europe.
Leontyne Price went on to perform many great soprano roles, and is regarded as one of the best sopranos of the 20th Century.
Ms. Price also recorded extensively, winning 13 Grammy Awards as a vocal soloist.
I’m streaming two of her performances on my Vox blog. Click here to hear “Summertime,” from a 1963 recording of music from “Porgy and Bess.”
Click here to hear “Vissi d’arte,” an aria from Puccini’s “Tosca.”