- Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit
- Let Us Break Bread Together On Our Knees
- Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
- Holy, Holy, Holy (Dykes-John Henry Newman)
- Blessed Assurance (Mrs. Joseph F. Knapp-Fanny J. Crosby)
- What A Friend We Have In Jesus (Charles C. Converse-JosephScriven)
CD’s and Vinyl
- The Prima Donna Collection
- A Program Of Songs
- Leontyne Price Sings Barber
- Aida (complete opera)
- La Forza del Destino (complete opera)
- Porgy and Bess (highlights)
- II Trovatore (complete highlights)
- Carmen (complete opera)
- A Christmas Offering (1959)
- Aida told by Leontyne Price (Children’s book)
by Rushaunda Nash (SHS)
Mary Violet Leontyne Price, better known as Leontyne Price, a famous black opera singer, was born in Laurel, Mississippi, on February 10, 1927.
She grew up in Laurel, Mississippi, attending Oak Park Elementary School and graduating from Oak Park High School in 1944 (African American Biography 589).
At an early age Price had an interest for music. She sang in the choir at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Laurel, Mississippi. Her mother Kate (Baker) Price, worked as a midwife and also sang in the choir. Her father James Price worked in a sawmill (African American Bio. 589).
Price began taking piano lessons at the age of five years old. She presented her first recital when she was only six years old. Price attended Sandy Gavin Elementary where she also learned dancing and acrobatics from her third grade teacher. Price enjoyed performing and many times was the star in school programs.
Although she participated in extra activities, Price was an outstanding “A” student (Williams 11). At the age of nine, Price’s mother took her to Jackson, Mississippi, to a concert by Marian Anderson. This concert inspired Leontyne (African American Bio. 589).
Price attended Oak Park High School, where she sang first soprano with the Oak Park Choral group. She played in a numerous of school concerts, church, community programs, and solo recitals, singing and also playing the piano (Williams 13). Price graduated from Oak Park High School in 1944. She graduated with honors and also was presented an award for outstanding ability in music (Williams 14).
Price then enrolled at the College of Education and Industrial Arts (Central State College) in Wilberforce, Ohio. At Central State, she studied music education, with the idea to become a music teacher if becoming a performer failed (African American Bio. 590).
Catherine Van Buren, Leontyne’s voice coach encouraged Price to continue her training. With that in mind, Price competed for and won a four-year scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music in New York City (Williams 17). Price left for New York in 1949 to attend Juilliard School of Music.
During the four years at Juilliard, Price studied singing, learned stage presence, acting, and makeup (African American Bio. 590). She appeared in many of Juilliard’s operatic productions. During one of her performances she was seen and heard by composer Virgil Thompson. This performance gave her the start to her career. Virgil Thompson asked her to sing the role of St. Cecelia in opera, Four Saints in Three Acts, which was her first appearance as a professional singer (African American Bio. 590). From then on, she began touring the United States and Europe as a professional singer.
Four Saints in Three Acts was very successful and this helped Leontyne to be signed to sing the role of Bess in the folk opera Porgy and Bess (African American Bio. 591). In 1957 at the San Francisco opera, Price sang in the opera, Dialogues of the Camelites. By accident Price got the chance to play the first role of Aida because the opera singer who was chosen became very ill (African American Bio. 591).
Price got her chance to sing at the Metropolitan in 1961. Price’s outstanding performance in Verdi’s II Trovature at the Met received a standing ovation of forty-two minutes. Price appeared in 118 Metropolitan Operas between 1961 and 1969 (African American Bio.591). In Samuel Barbers opera, Antony and Cleopatra, Price sang and played the role of Cleopatra. ” Tickets for this opera sold out; and the tickets were as much as two hundred and fifty dollars” (Williams 24).
In 1970, Price cut down on her operatic appearances and concentrated on concert recitals and recording sessions. During Price’s career she has won nearly twenty Grammy Awards. Price’s retirement form the opera stage came in 1985 with the performance of Aida at the Lincoln Center.
Price has also written Aida: A Picture Book for All Ages (African American Bio.591). Even though Price has retired from the opera stage, she has performed at presidential inaugurations and sung before the Pope.
In 1991 she sang at Carnagie Hall’s hundredth anniversary in New York (African American Bio. 591). Williams says of her, “Leontyne Price had a strong desire to be successful opera singer. This goal, along with her vocal ability and stage personality, has led her to success. Her belief in hard work and deep religious faith have helped her through difficult periods.
The strength of character she has shown during her career marks her as one of America’s great women” (Williams 31). BMG released a boxed set entitled “The Essential Leontyne Price,” in 1997 which includes eleven CD’s of Price’s greatest recorded performances (including many rarities), from operatic scenes and arias to art songs to spirituals and sacred songs.
She has received many awards during her career. Two of the most recent are her induction into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame (1999) and the Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2000).
Price, at age 90, is highlighted in the documentary film “The Opera House,” which covers the opening of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in 1966.
- 1927- Mary Violet Leontyne Price was born in Laurel, Mississippi
- 1933- began playing piano at the age of 5.
- 1934- at the age of six performed first recital
- 1944- Graduated from Oak Park High School; enrolled at the College of Education and Industrial Arts in Wilberforce, Ohio
- 1949- awarded four-year scholarship for the Juilliard School of Music in New York City
- 1952- first appearance as a professional singer in opera Four Saints in Three Acts
- 1952- married William Warfield
- 1954- made concert debut at Town Hall
- 1955- appeared in her opera debut on NBC-TV
- 1957- sang in Dialogues of the Carmelites at the San Francisco opera
- 1958- European opera debut
- 1960- Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist A Program Of Song
- 1961- first appearance at the Metropolitan
- 1963- Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist for Great Scenes from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess
- 1964- Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist for Beriloz: Nuits d’ ete
- 1964- Presidential medal of Freedom
- 1965 – Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal soloist for R. Strauss: Scenes & Arias
- 1966- Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist for Prima Donna
- 1967- Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist for Prima Donna,Vol.2
- 1969- Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist for Barber: Knoxville
- 1970- cut down on opera performances
- 1971- Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist for Schumann: Songs
- 1973- Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist for Puccini Heroines
- 1974- Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist for R. Strauss
- 1980- Kennedy Center Honoree
Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist for Verdi
- 1983- Grammy Award: Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist with Marilyn
- 1985- retired, with performance of Aida
- 1987- Image Award from Associated Black Charities
- 1989- Lifetime Achievement Award, National Academy of recording Arts and Sciences
- 1990- Essence Award
- 1990 – Wrote Aida, a children’s book
- 1991- Sung at the hundredth anniversary of Carnegie Hall in New York
- 1999- Inducted in Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame
- 2000- Recipient of Mississippi Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
- 2017 – Inducted in to the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience Hall of Fame
- 2017 – Featured in a documentary about the Metropolitan Opera entitled “The Opera House”
- 2019 – Oak Park Elementary School in Laurel, MS, unveiled a portrait of Leontyne
- This web site by Afrocentric Voices in Classical music that includes biography, awards, and video clips of Price.
- Leontyne Price, Legendary Diva, Is a Movie Star at 90 – The New York Times, Dec. 22, 2017
- Hawkins, Walker L. African American Biographies: Profiles of 588 Current Men and Women. Mc Farland and Company, Inc. 1992.
- “Price, Leontyne” African American Biography. Vol. 3 K-R
- Williams, Sylvia. Leontyne Price Opera Superstar. Children’s Press of Chicago, 1984.
- Biography of Leontyne Price. The Kennedy Center