born February 10, 1927 in Laurel, Mississippi
Mary Violet Leontyne Price is an American lyric soprano, the first African American singer to achieve an international reputation in opera and to sing at the Metropolitan Opera.
Both of Price’s grandfathers had been Methodist ministers in black churches in Mississippi, and she sang in her church choir as a girl. Only when she graduated from the College of Education and Industrial Arts in Wilberforce, Ohio (1948), did she decide to seek a career as a singer.
Her debut took place in 1952 in a Broadway revival of Four Saints in Three Acts by Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein. Her performance in that production, which subsequently traveled to Paris, prompted Ira Gershwin to choose her to sing the role of Bess in his revival of Porgy and Bess, which played in New York City (1952 – 1954) and then toured the United States and Europe. The year 1955 saw her triumphant performance of the title role in the National Broadcasting Company’s television production of Tosca, and she sang leading roles in other operas on television in the next few years.
Verdi – Aida, O Patria Mia
Among her many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom_ (1964), the Spingarn Medal (1965), the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1985), numerous honorary degrees, and nineteen Grammy Awards, for operatic or song recitals and full operas, and a special Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989, more than any other classical singer.