Leontyne Price


by Alice Lechner
July 14, 2020


Mary Violet Leontyne Price is an American soprano, born and raised in Laurel, Mississipi. She rose to international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s. She was the first African American to become a leading performer at the Metropolitan Opera and one of her generation’s most popular American classical singers.
Time magazine called her voice “Rich, supple and shining, it was in its prime capable of effortless soaring a smoky mezzo to the pure soprano gold of a perfectly spun high C. “
A lirico spinto soprano, she was considered especially well suited for the heroines of Giuseppe Verdi’s “middle period “operas, such as Aida, Il Trovatore, La Forza del Destino and Ballo in Maschera. She was also noted for her interpretations of leading roles in operas by Giacomo Puccini and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Her first contact with music was at age five when she began piano lessons with a local teacher.
At 14, she was taken on a school trip to hear Marian Anderson sing a recital, an experience she later said was inspirational: “the minute she came on stage, I knew I wanted to walk like that, look like that, and if possible, sound something near that, “she told in an interviewer in 2008.
In her second year, she heard Ljuba Welitsch sing Salome by Richard Strauss at the Metropolitan Opera House and became fascinated by opera. So, in 1950, she joined Julliard’s Opera Workshop and sang her first small roles in workshop performances of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Magic Flute (First Lady) and Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicci (Aunt Nella).
The door to opera opened through the NBC Opera Theatre under music director Peter Herman Adler. In January 1955, she sang the title role in Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, the first appearance by an African American in a leading role in televised opera.
In March 1955, she was taken by her agent to audition at Carnegie Hall. Impressed by her singing of “Pace, pace mio Dio “from Giuseppe Verdi’s “La forza del destino “, Karajan asked to be allowed to direct her future European career.
The Met had been slow to offer Price a major contract. The Met agreed to her manager’s insistence that she should debut as Leonora in Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi, a traditionally white role. Shortly before her debut, Bing extended her first-season contract to include two recently added roles, Liu from Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot and Butterfly from Madama Butterfly.
On 27th January 1961, Price and Corelli made a triumphant debut in Il Trovatore. The performance ended with an ovation that lasted at least 35 minutes, one of the longest in Met history.
While her Met star rose, Price remained busily engaged in Vienna, Milan, and Salzburg. She sang in a famous production of Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi in Salzburg in 1962 and 1963. Moreover, she gave performances of Tosca by Giacomo Puccini in Vienna in 1963 and 1964, all under Herbert von Karajan. Karajan also chose her as his soprano soloist in many of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem performances.
After her first Met season, Price added seven roles to her repertoire: Elvira in Giuseppe Verdi’s Ernani, Pamina in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Tatyana in Piotr Ilyich Tschaikowski’s Eugene Oneghin, Amelia from Un ballo in Maschera by Giussepe Verdi, Cleopatra in Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra, and Leonora from La forza del destino by Giuseppe Verdi.
The biggest milestone in her career was the new Metropolitan Opera House opening night at Lincoln Center on 16th September 1966, when she sang Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra by American composer Samuel Barber, a new opera commissioned for the occasion. The composer had written the role, especially for Price, often visiting her home in Greenwich Village to try out new pages of the score.
Price’s singing was highly praised during the event, especially her soaring moments in the climactic death scene, where she sang from a magnificent high throne. However, the opera was widely considered a failure.
In the late 1960s, Leontyne Price cut back her operatic performances and devoted more of her career to recitals and concerts.
She knew to keep a presence in opera and returned to the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera, her favourite house, for short runs of three to five performances. However, she undertook only three new roles after 1970: Giorgetta in Giacomo Puccini’s Il tabarro (San Francisco only), Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut (San Francisco and New York), and Ariadne in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne of Naxos (San Francisco and New York). Of these, only Ariadne was considered as excellent as her established repertoire.
She appeared more rarely in Europe. In the early 1970s, she sang Aida and a single La Forza del destino in Hamburg and returned to London’s Covent Garden in Il Trovatore and Aida.
In the U.S., she had become an iconic figure and was regularly asked to sing on important national occasions.
President Jimmy Carter invited her to sing at the White House for the visit of Pope John Paul II and at the state dinner after the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords. In 1978, Carter invited her to sing a nationally televised recital from the East Room of the White House. In 1982, she sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” before a Meeting of Congress on the 100th anniversary of the birth of President Franklin Roosevelt. She sang for President Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, and Bill Clinton.


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Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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