February is Black History Month! Today, we take a look at a pioneer of International Opera- Leontyne Price!
In 1951, Alfred Lunt was given the opportunity to produce and direct Cosi fan Tutte with the Metropolitan Opera. Alfred took his role very seriously, alongside directing he also took a small role of “the servant”. It was a smashing success and the opera ran until 1952.
Due to its original success, Alfred was asked to return and produce Cosi fan Tutte for a second time more than a decade later in 1965.This time he would ask Leontyne Price to star in the leading role, making her the first woman of color to do so. Her performance was celebrated by critics for decades following the debut of the opera.
Leontyne was one of the first black individuals to ever perform at the Met, holding a contract there for nearly a decade. After her work in Cosi fan Tutte, she went on to sing for Presidents Carter, Reagan, H.W. Bush, and Clinton. In 1964, Leontyne , along with Lynn and Alfred received a Medal of Freedom from President Johnson. She was the youngest recipient that year by more than 20 years.
In 1980, Leontyne Price and Lynn Fontanne both received Kennedy Honor awards for their lifetime achievements. In addition, Leontyne performed for Pope John Paul II and was featured regularly on television events and in the most respected opera houses in the world.
Most recently in 2017, Leontyne appeared in the documentary “The Opera House” about the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House in 1966. With a voice that leaves audiences in absolute awe, Leontyne has paved the way for thousands of other artists. She is truly an inspiration.