Welcome to the last part in our series on Leontyne Price. The American soprano paved the way for so many young singers, particularly those African American artists who wanted to take their rightful place in the world of opera. William Price King takes us through Leontyne’s final official performances.. Although I am sure at age 90, this wonderful singer still enjoys singing in private.
Leontyne Price was now at the peak of her career in the early 1970s and as such was often invited to sing at state occasions. She had been invited to sing at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration in 1965 and she attended his funeral in January 1973 where she sang Precious Lord, Take My Hand and Onward Christian Soldiers. Leontyne also perforned at state functions during President Jimmy Carter’s term in office including on the visit of Pope John Paul II.
Having missed the 1972 season, Leontyne returned to the Met in 1973 to sing Madama Butterfly for the first time in ten years.
Leontyne Price’s “Un Bel Di” from Madama Butterfly is ravishingly beautiful and demonstrates why she was one of the greatest lirico spinto sopranos ever. Here, she gives a commanding and fearless performance which would delight any Puccini enthusiast, with her rich low tones, her vibrant middle and her radiant top.
In 1976, the Met mounted a long-delayed new production of Aida, with James McCracken as Radames and Marilyn Horne as Amneris, directed by John Dexter. In 1977 Leontyne renewed her partnership with Herbert von Karajan in a Brahms Requiem with the Berlin Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. Following this she and Karajan returned to perform what would be her final opera performances in Europe, in Il Travatore at the Salzburg Easter Festival and Vienna’s Staatsoper.
1977 also saw Leontyne sing her last new role as the Strauss heroine Ariadne in San Francisco to rave reviews.
Leontyne Price sings “Ein Schönes War” from Ariadne auf Naxos
I believe that most opera buffs would agree that Ariadne was a great role for Ms. Price. Her voice easily encompassed the wide range that this role offers. Her German is practically faultless, and there is such a wealth of gorgeous tone, sensitive artistry and impeccable musicianship.In this aria,Ariadne recalls her love for Theseus,andimagines herself as a chaste girl, awaiting death.
In 1979 she did bring the role of Ariadne to the Met, but she was suffering from a viral infection and only performed two of the scheduled perfomances.
However, there were still some exceptional performances to come and in fall of 1981 Leontyne stepped in for soprano Margaret Price as Aida in San Francisco. In 1983 she hosted two televised performances of ‘In Performance from the White House‘.
After revisiting some of her most famous roles in San Francisco and at the Met, Price gave her operatic farewell on January 3, 1985, in a televised performance of Aida from the Met which was hailed as one of the most successful operatic performances in the Met’s history. . Time Magazine described it as a “vocally stunning performance… that proved she can still capture her peak form.” Donal Henahan wrote that the “57-year-old soprano took an act or two to warm to her work, but what she delivered in the Nile Scene turned out to be well worth the wait.”
In 2007, PBS viewers voted her singing of the aria, “O patria mia”, as the No. 1 “Great Moment” in 30 years of “Live from the Met” telecasts. The performance ended with 25 minutes of applause.
Leontyne Price sang 201 performances with the Met, in 16 roles, in the house and on tour, including galas. (She was absent for three seasons—1970–71, 1977–78, and 1980–81—and sang only in galas in 1972-73, 1979–80, and 1982–83.)
Over the next twelve years, Leontyne Price continued to perform concerts and recitals with her longtime accompanist David Garvey. The programme usually combined Handel arias, French melodies, German Lieder and one or two arias
Leontyne often included American Art Songs and Spirituals in her concerts. “This little light of mine” was her mother’s favorite spiritual and one audiences loved to hear. Ms. Price used her *timbre as a form of embellishment as she moved deftly between a polished art song sound and a more robust gospel style sound to deliver spirituals. It worked beautifully.
*timbre – the character or quality of a musical sound or voice as distinct from its pitch and intensity.
Before retiring, Price gave several master classes at Juilliard and other schools. In 1997, at the suggestion of RCA-BMG, she wrote a children’s book version of Aida, which became the basis for the hit Broadway musical by Elton J and Tim Rice in 2000.
In October 2001, at the age of 74, Price was asked to come out of retirement to sing in a memorial concert at Carnegie Hall for the victims of the September 11 attacks. With James Levine at the piano, she sang her favorite spiritual, “This Little Light of Mine”, followed by an unaccompanied “God Bless America,” ending it with a bright, easy high B.
Leontyne Price now lives in Greenwich Village in New York City and it seems a fitting way to end this look at her wonderful and inspiring career with a song that demonstrates her versatility.
Ms. Price often sang songs from the Great American Songbook. Here is her concert version of “What I did for love” from the Broadway show “A Chorus Line”. She lends her deliciously silken tone to this famous tune. Breath taking!
Additional Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leontyne_Price
Buy the music of Leontyne Price: https://www.amazon.com/Leontyne-Price/e/B000AQ1580
About 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. http://cdbaby.com/cd/williampriceking
William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.
Connect to William
Website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
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
N.B. Next week marks the first in the Creative Artist’s interviews and William Price King is the first guest.. For those of you who have enjoyed William’s music post since 2014 it will be an opportunity to ask your own questions in the comment section of the post. I know that William is looking forward to hearing from you.. Next Wednesday March 1st. Please join us for the first of the interactive interviews.
If you are a poet, photographer, musician, artist, storyteller then here are the details of the new series.. I already have some wonderful guests lined up but would be delighted to hear from you.