Today marks the 90th birthday of legendary soprano Leontyne Price — widely regarded as one of the greatest Verdi sopranos — and greatest sopranos, period — of the twentieth century.
A few of Price's many career highlights include:
• In 1952, she made her Broadway debut in Thompsen's Four Saints in Three Acts. Following that run, she stunned audiences for two years with her dazzling portrayal of Bess in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.
• Price made her opera stage debut at the San Francisco Opera House in 1957, taking on the role of Madame Lidoine in Poulenc's Dialogues des carmélites.
• In 1961, Price made her debut at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House in Verdi's Il Trovatore, establishing her residency as one the opera's star sopranos. Roles that followed included Minnie in La Fanciulla del West, Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly, and in one her most quintessential roles, Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra.
• Price gave her farewell performance in 1985, in the title role of Verdi's Aida — hailed as one of the Met's most successful operatic performances in its history.
• In 2008, she was a recipient (along with composer Carlisle Floyd and conductor James Levine) of an NEA Opera Honors award. Upon meeting the soprano at the awards luncheon, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a noted opera buff) took Ms. Price's hand and said "what a joy ... my, this magnificent woman."
In honor of her 90 years, here are nine of Price's most iconic performances:
"Ritorna Vincitor" from Verdi's Aida
"O patria mia" from Verdi's Aida (her opera farewell)
"Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" from Puccini's La rondine
"Pace, pace mio Dio" from Verdi's La Forza del Destino
"Mira, o Norma" from Bellini's Norma (with Marilyn Horne)
Strauss's Four Last Songs
"Fass' ich sie bang" from Strauss's Guntram
Traditional Spiritual "Ride on, King Jesus"
"Un ballo in máschera" from Verdi's Un ballo in maschera (with Luciano Pavarotti)
(h/t Ryan Lohr, Classical MPR Music Director)