Personalities | Leontyne Price | Modern Era | Opera

b. 1927, American

From the Mississippi to the concert stages of Europe, Price helped to pave the way for black American singers. Assisted by Paul Robeson and an affluent white family in her hometown, she gained entry to Juilliard, where she appeared in George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and Virgil Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts. When, in 1955, NBC produced Puccini’s Tosca with Price in the title role, she became the first African-American to sing in a televised opera. She also righted the wrong committed when the Daughters of the Revolution stopped Marion Anderson from singing at Washington’s Constitution Hall in 1939 – more than 40 years later, Price dedicated her performance there to Anderson. Her association with the role of Aida began in 1957 and ended in 1985, when she retired from the stage. A perfect instrument for Verdi roles, Price was one of the great singers of the twentieth century.

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