Classical Music with William Price King – Leontyne Price Part Three – 1960s

classical musicWelcome to the third part of Leontyne Price’s career and performances. And to set the scene a few words from her admirers.

In The Grand Tradition, a 1974 history of operatic recording, the British critic J.B. Steane wrote that “one might conclude from recordings that [Price] is the best interpreter of Verdi of the century.” For the Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, a 1963 Price performance of Tosca at the Vienna State Opera “left me with the strongest impression I have ever gotten from opera.” In his 1983 autobiography, Placido Domingo writes, “The power and sensuousness of Leontyne’s voice were phenomenal—the most beautiful Verdi soprano I have ever heard.”


William Price King now picks up Leontyne Price’s story in the 1960s.

In September 1961, Leontyne Price opened the Met season as Minnie in La fanciulla del West. A musicians’ strike had threatened to abort the season, but President Kennedy sent Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg to mediate a settlement.

Following her second Faniciulla performance it became apparent that Leontyne had a problem with her voice. After losing it completely , she was forced to shout her lines until the end of the act, when standby soprano, Dorothy Kristen replaced her in the third act.

After several weeks recovering from a reported viral infection, Leontyne returned for another Fanciulla performance and Butterfly in December. Having carried out her commitments she then left for a three months to Rome. She would later comment that she was suffering from nervous exhaustion.

However, in the April, Leontyne returned to the Met to perform in her first fully staged Tosca and following that up with the Met tour which included Tosca, Butterfly and Fanciulla. It was also a landmark tour that saw Leontyne Price as the first African American to perform in a lead role in the South, specifically in Dallas.

La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the West) is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini. It was based on the the play The Girl of the Golden West by American David Belasco and followed Butterfly which was also based on one of his plays. Whilst not as well known as other Puccini operas, it still has wonderful orchestration and is regarded as more melodic than some of his previous work.

At the end of Act I, Price, as Minnie, recalls her happy childhood and sings about her ideal love in the aria “Laggiù nel Soledad.” This is the only role Leontyne Price sang which was not exactly for her. Nonetheless, her voice is captivating and she soars up to those high C’s with no problem and makes them ring.

Although other African American opera stars had performed in leading roles at the Met, Leontyne Price was the first to achieve recognition on both sides of the Atlantic, the first to be repeatedly invited to perform with the Met in various leading roles, and the first to earn the highest fee, which put her on a par with the leading sopranos at the time such as Joan Sutherland and Maria Callas. Not an easy road to success in a time of segregation and continued racism against African Americans in opera. Especially when opportunities in general were limited in the world of opera.

Following the successful tour, Leontyne added more roles to her repertoire at the Met. These included Elvira in Verdi’s Ernani, Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Fiordilgi in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Oenegin, Cleopatra in Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra, Amelia in Un ballo in maschera, and Leonora in La forza del destino.

Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti (Thus Do They All, or The School for Lovers) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is an Italian opera buffa. Buffa was first used as an informal description of Italian comic operas, also know as commedia in musica or dramma bernesco, and were particularly associated with productions in Naples in the first half of the 18th century. A buffa in the beginning tended to contain everyday settings, local dialects and simpler librettos. If you like to our modern day soap-opera. Cosi fan tutti was first performed in Vienna in January 1790. The libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte who also wrote Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni.

Here is Leontyne who loved singing Mozart, and her Fiordiligi is considered one of the best. “Come scoglio” (Like a rock) demands a singer who can handle the extreme parts of the soprano range with great ease and Price was perfect in the role.

By 1966 Leontyne Price was at the peak of her career when she sang Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra by American composer Samuel Barber and conducted by Thomas Schippers in the newly opened Met’s house at Lincoln Center. Leontyne and Samuel Barber had worked together several times from her early career and remained close friends. This collaboration allowed Samuel Barber, who knew her voice well, to tailor the music for Cleopatra’s role perfectly to suit both her register and range.

Following this role, Leontyne decided to cut back on her operatic performances and to focus on recitals and concerts. The schedule of new productions at the Met and also the need to adjust her vocal technique as she moved into her forties was tiring. However her career continued to flourish as she toured major cities and large universities.

As she moved into the 1970s, Leontyne returned to Europe to perform in Hamburg and London’s Covent Garden with further recitals in Vienna, Paris and the Salzburg Festival. She was so popular at the festival that she continued to return six times between 1975 and 1984.

Leontyne was invited back to the Met, but only undertook three new roles after 1970 which included Ariadne in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne aux Naxos in San Franciso and New York.

In 1971 she performed in Il tabarro (The Cloak), which is one act opera by Giacomo Puccini with an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Adami. It was based on Didier Gold’s play La houppelande.. It is the first of a trio of operas known a Il Trittico first performed at the Met in New York in 1918.

Here is Leontyne Price singing “E ben altro il mio sogno” Il Tabarro Live 1971. In the role of Giorgetta from Puccini’s “Il Tabarro”  Leontyne Price is at home. This role is perfectly fit for her voice and she does a magnificent job in this impassioned duet with Luigi, dreaming of a better life in Paris, in the aria “E ben altro il mio sogno.”The characterization is rapturous.

Additional Sources:

Buy the music of Leontyne Price:

William and his musicAbout William Price King

William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.

William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King
Download the new album.

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

Connect to William

Website –
Facebook –
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue –

You will find the previous artists..  Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Kiri Te Kanawa in this directory.

Thank you so much for stopping by and your feedback is always very welcome. Sally


13 thoughts on “Classical Music with William Price King – Leontyne Price Part Three – 1960s

  1. Pingback: Classical Music with William Price King – Leontyne Price Part Three – 1960s | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Rum Cocktails, Blog Sitters and all that Jazz | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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