Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Happy birthday, Leontyne Price
The great American soprano Leontyne Price was born on 10 February 1927 in Laurel, Mississippi. In 1952, soon after she graduated from Juilliard, Ira Gershwin selected her to sing the role of Bess in a revival of Porgy and Bess that became a hit in New York and toured Europe to great acclaim.
Her 1961 debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, as Leonora in Il Trovatore, made her a star to rank with Joan Sutherland and Maria Callas; in Europe she performed often with Herbert von Karajan, and made some classic recordings with him. She is regarded as the Verdi soprano of our time.
Here she is in 1963 singing “O patria mia” from Verdi’s Aida:
And here she is in 1981 singing “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. It’s from late in her career, and in pretty soupy sound, but at least you can see her. There is a better sound-only clip here from her outstanding 1963 recording of excerpts from the opera, with her then husband William Warfield as Porgy. This “Summertime” is pretty much definitive.