Leontyne Price. The Met’s diva, even to this day.
Over the last year, Price’s presence has grown astronomically by virtue of her association with the new house. She was a prominent part of the 50th-anniversary celebration of the new house in Lincoln Center and appeared in a recent documentary. And it is no surprise. She was and continues to be a major part of its legacy.
Here is a look back at Price, born on Feb. 10, 1927, and her major historic Met moments.
It was Jan. 27, 1961 and Price sang Leonora in “Il Trovatore.” She wasn’t the only debutante though. She was sharing her debut with Franco Corelli, who was also singing at the Met Opera for the first time in his career. Price would have a runaway success in her opening performance, garnering this review from The New York Times: “She has matured into a beautiful singer. Her voice, warm and luscious, has enough volume to fill the house with ease, and she has a good technique to back up the voice itself. She even took the trills as written, and nothing in the part as Verdi wrote it gave her the last bit of trouble.”
Throughout her time at the Met, Price would only get to open four new productions. The first time she was given the honor was in the season following her debut. This was “La Fanciulla del West” on Oct. 23, 1961. She was singing alongside Richard Tucker in the Puccini opera and the NY Times stated that “Leontyne Price acted well and sang beautifully, up to the soaring C’s that dot the part.”
Opening the New House
On Sept. 16, 1966, Price opened the new house on Lincoln Center alongside Justino Díaz in Samuel Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra.” This made her THE diva of this new opera palace and her association was cemented from that day forward.
“Aida” would be a role that Price would essentially own, so incredible and unforgettable was her interpretation of the legendary role. She first sang it on Feb. 20, 1961, in only her fourth-ever Met performance. She would claim an opening night during the 1969-70 season in the role. She would get her fourth new production in the title role in 1976. And finally, she would end her Met career in the part on Jan. 3, 1985.
One Final Concert
While the “Aida” is widely seen as Price’s farewell to the Met, she did take the stage one final time on March 24, 1985, in a concert alongside James Levine, who played the piano. The recital was filled with works of all kinds ranging from opera selections to songs by Samuel Barber.
Let us know what your greatest Leontyne Price moments at the Met are!