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Video Published: 05 Feb 2024

NEA Opera Honors: An Oral History with Leontyne Price

In 2008, soprano Leontyne Price was awarded an NEA Opera Honors award and sat down for an interview about opera and their life.

This interview was originally posted by the NEA on June 3, 2010.
The Oral History Project is supported by the Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation. 

Leontyne Price, soprano

There are very few singers with voices that are as instantly recognizable, and revered, as the rich, creamy lyric soprano of Leontyne Price. Although her 1961 debut as Leonora in Il trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera instantly made her a legend — and landed her on the cover of Time magazine — she was already well known to opera audiences in cities such as San Francisco and Vienna (where, at the invitation of Herbert von Karajan, she made her debut as Aida in 1959). Price has made a long career in opera, concert, and recital. Though she is best known as a Verdi and Puccini singer, she has always embraced the work of American composers, particularly Samuel Barber. She gave the premiere of his Hermit Songs at New York City's Town Hall in 1954, with the composer at the piano, and Barber went on to write many pieces for her. Her scores of awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of the Arts (1985), the National Association of Black Broadcasters Award (2002), 19 Grammys, and three Emmys.

Price was a 2008 recipient of the NEA Opera Honors, a program administered by the National Endowment for the Arts from 2008 to 2011. The NEA Opera Honors recipients are now recognized in OPERA America’s Opera Hall of Fame.

Oral History Project

Discover the full collection of oral histories at the link below.