Leontyne Price Is Born

Lyric soprano Leontyne Price was born on February 10, 1927, in Laurel, Mississippi.

Price debuted on Broadway in April 1952. Her successful career took her to leading opera houses around the world and brought eighteen Grammy awards as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The granddaughter of two Methodist ministers, Price began singing in church. Her parents encouraged her musical inclination at home. When she was five or six years old, they purchased a toy piano. "I was center stage," Price remembered, "from the time I received that toy piano…I had the disease then…"

Mary Violet Leontyne Price (born February 10, 1927, in Laurel, Mississippi in the United States) is an American operatic soprano. She was best known for the title role of Verdi's Aida. Born in the segregated Deep South, she rose to international fame during a period of racial change in the 1950s and 60s, and was the first African-American to become a leading prima donna at the Metropolitan Opera.

Price's voice was noted for its brilliant upper register, "smoky" middle and lower registers, flowing phrasing, and wide dynamic range. A lirico spinto (Italian for "pushed lyric", or middleweight), she was well suited to the roles of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, as well as several in operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Her voice ranged from A flat below Middle C to the E above High C. (She said she reached high Fs "in the shower.")

After her retirement from the opera stage in 1985, she gave recitals for another dozen years.

Among her many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1965), the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1985), numerous honorary degrees, and nineteen Grammy Awards, including a special Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989, more than any other classical singer. In October 2008, she was one of the recipients of the first Opera Honors given by the National Endowment for the Arts.

We should not have a tin cup out for something as important as the arts in this country, the richest in the world. Creative artists are always begging, but always being used when it's time to show us at our best.”

— Leontyne Price