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In My Own Words

Leontyne Price

By Marketta A. Nixon
SeeingBlack.com Junior Writer

Leontyne Mary Price was born February 10,1927. She was a famous African American opera singer. She was born in Laurel, Mississippi. She started piano lessons at age four. She started singing in the church choir not many years far from her piano lessons. In 1936 she attended a recital in Jackson Mississippi by Marian Anderson, a famous African-American Opera singer at that time.

After seeing Anderson, Price decided she wanted to be a musician and singer. At this time, the only role for a Black woman other than performing was teaching. She attended Central State College, a Black college in Ohio, to study teaching. But before here final year in 1949 at Central State, she was encouraged to attend the famous Julliard School of Music in New York City. Price studied voice.

Price first sang professionally in a 1952 show with an all-Black cast called Four Saints in Three Acts by composer Virgil Thompson. Price traveled to New York and Paris, France performing in the show. Her performance would win her the part of Bess in George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.

The role would bring Price international recognition as she toured the world performing as Bess. She would go on to perform in dozens of operas, singing different types of music: German, Spanish, French and Slavic works. Price also performed with the San Francisco Opera Company, the Vienna State Opera La Scala in Milan, Spain, and with the famous Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City.

She retired from her career in 1985, after more than thirty years of performing. She is still alive today and currently lives in New York City. For her contributions to opera, Price was given the title "La diva di tutte le dive" Italian for "Opera's foremost goddess".

-- April 9, 2001

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