Classical 101 Celebrates Leontyne Price's 90th Birthday

Feb 6, 2017

The magnificent American soprano Leontyne Price celebrates her 90th birthday Feb. 10.

Classical 101 by Request invites you to a birthday celebration. We'll be playing your favorite performances by the great lady from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10.

To get in on the party, go to wosu.org/requests, and let me know what you'd like to hear.

Will it be Price's incomparable Aida, Tosca, Leonora or Madama Butterfly? Art songs by Schumann, Strauss or Brahms? Spirituals? Music written for Price by Samuel Barber, Ned Rorem or Lee Hoiby? 

I've been stocking up on music, looking forward to celebrating a lady whose voice has been called nothing less than sheerly beautiful.

Mary Violet Leontyne Price was born in Laurel, Mississippi, on Feb. 10, 1927. She studied in Ohio, at Wilberforce University, before going on to The Juilliard School.

Price first attracted attention on Broadway as Gershwin's Bess, and later on a U.S. State Department-sponsored tour to Europe and the Soviet Union in 1952.

When Price sang Tosca on NBC TV in 1955, stations in the South wouldn't carry the broadcast. Her debut at The Metropolitan Opera in 1961 brought a 45-minute ovation. The rest, as they say, ...

Leontyne Price in 1981
Credit Jack Mitchell / Wikimedia Commons

I heard Price's final appearance at the Met, as Aida, on New Year's Eve 1983. The fire department had to shout down the opera house because the audience refused to stop cheering and go home.

Price's annual recitals in Boston's Symphony Hall were big events of my youth. The joint was jumping, with plenty of flash pictures and Kennedys in the front row. That was true of everywhere she appeared (though I don't know about the Kennedys).

Price's next-to-last appearance was at Denison University. God bless you, Lorraine Wales and Denison's Vail Series, for letting me hear the great lady one more time, and for introducing her to a new generation.

Join the 90th birthday celebration for Leontyne Price on Classical 101 by Request, from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10. Request your favorite Price pieces here.