Leontyne Price

Feb. 27, 2005, midnight | By Christopher Consolino | 16 years, 11 months ago

Leontyne Price, winner of 15 Grammy Awards and the first black opera singer to perform on television.

Although she may have not been an abolitionist or brilliant orator, Leontyne Price contributed her talent to the classical arts, becoming the first black opera singer to perform on television. She also performed in Vienna, Austria, the home of classical opera, immortalizing herself as one of the greatest singers of her time.Born in 1927 in the Laurel, Mississippi, Price began to pursue her career as a musician after attending the College of Educational and Industrial Arts in Wilberforce, Ohio, in 1948. Although she did not intend to immediately pursue a career in music, after the president of the college, Dr. Charles H. Wesley heard her sing in the University Choir, he convinced Price to change her major to music with a concentration on voice.

In 1949, Price enrolled in the prestigious Julliard School of Music, which soon led to her 1952 debut on Broadway. Her dream performance in New York, however, was only the beginning of her myriad of accomplishments in the musical world. In 1955, Price was chosen to sing the title role in a television production of "Tosca" and became the first black woman to sing in a television opera production. For the next several years, Price became recognized internationally, performing in Russia, throughout Europe and in New York City. In 1961, Price debuted at the Metropolitan Opera as Leonora in Verdi's "II Trovatore," a performance which not only earned her a 42-minute standing ovation but also immortalized her as one of the greatest opera singers of the century. Between 1961 and 1969, she sang in 118 performances of the Metropolitan Opera.

In stark contrast to her 1960s career, Price began to sing less frequently during the 1970s, but she continued to accept challenging vocal roles regardless of genre. Some of her famous performances during this period include Ariadne in Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos" at the San Francisco Opera in 1977 and Manon Lescaut in "Manon" in 1974.

Over the years, Price has acquired 15 Grammy Awards for her vocal recordings and is the only opera singer to be represented in the list of "Remarkable American Women: 1776-1976" in Life Magazine's Bicentennial issue in 1976. Price currently lives in New York City's Greenwich Village.

Last updated: May 6, 2021, 11:35 p.m.

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Christopher Consolino. Christopher Consolino is a senior in Communication Arts Program. If Chris had free time, he would spend it practicing piano and taking pictures with his 15 year-old Minolta. He would also like to stress how much better wet process photography is than digital. Most of … More »

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