Saturday Open Thread

Today’s trailblazer is Leontyne Price.

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Mary Violet Leontyne Price (born February 10, 1927) is an American soprano. Born and raised in the Deep South, she rose to international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s, and was one of the first African Americans to become a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera.[1][2][3]

One critic characterized Price’s voice as “vibrant”, “soaring” and “a Price beyond pearls”, as well as “genuinely buttery, carefully produced but firmly under control”, with phrases that “took on a seductive sinuousness.” [4] Time magazine called her voice “Rich, supple and shining, it was in its prime capable of effortlessly soaring from a smoky mezzo to the pure soprano gold of a perfectly spun high C.”[5]

A lirico spinto (Italian for “pushed lyric”) soprano, she was considered especially well suited to the roles of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, as well as several in operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

After her retirement from the opera stage in 1985, she continued to appear in recitals and orchestral concerts for another 12 years.

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Among her many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the Spingarn Medal (1965),[6] the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1985), numerous honorary degrees, and nineteen Grammy Awards, 13 for operatic or song recitals, five for full operas, and a special Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989, more than any other classical singer. In October 2008, she was one of the recipients of the first Opera Honors given by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Life and career

Leontyne Price was born in Laurel, Mississippi. Her father James worked in a lumber mill and her mother Katie was a midwife who sang in the church choir. They had waited 13 years for a child, and Leontyne became the focus of intense pride and love. Given a toy piano at the age of three, she began piano lessons with a local teacher. When she was in kindergarten, her parents traded in the family phonograph as the down payment on an upright piano. At 14, she was taken on a school trip to hear Marian Anderson sing in Jackson, an experience she later said was inspirational.

In her teen years, Leontyne accompanied the “second choir” at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, sang and played for the chorus at the black high school, and earned extra money by singing for funerals and civic functions. Meanwhile, she often visited the home of Alexander and Elizabeth Chisholm, an affluent white family for whom Leontyne’s aunt worked as a laundress. Mrs. Chisholm encouraged the girl’s early piano playing, and later noticed her extraordinary singing voice.



Aiming for a teaching career, Price enrolled in the music education program at the all-black Wilberforce College in Wilberforce, Ohio. (This institution’s public and private arms split in her junior year and she graduated from the publicly funded half, which became Central State University.) Her success in the glee club led to solo assignments, and she was encouraged to complete her studies in voice. She sang in the choir with another soon-to-be-famous singer, Betty Allen. With the help of the Chisholms and the famous bass Paul Robeson, who put on a benefit concert for her, she enrolled on a scholarship at the Juilliard School in New York City, where she studied with Florence Page Kimball, who would remain her principal teacher and advisor throughout the 1960s.

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Her first opera performance was as Mistress Ford in a 1952 student production of Verdi’s Falstaff. Shortly thereafter, Virgil Thomson hired her for the revival of his all-black opera, Four Saints in Three Acts. After a two-week Broadway run, Saints went to Paris. Meanwhile, she had been cast as Bess in the Blevins Davis/Robert Breen revival of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and returned for the opening of the national tour at the Dallas State Fair, on June 9, 1952. The tour visited Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C., and then went on a tour of Europe, sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

On the eve of the European tour, Price married the noted bass-baritone William Warfield, who was singing Porgy in the Davis-Breen production, in a ceremony at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, with many in the cast in attendance. In his memoir, My Music and My Life, Warfield describes how their careers forced them apart. They were legally separated in 1967, and divorced in 1973. They had no children.

At first, Price planned on a recital career, modeling herself after Anderson, tenor Roland Hayes, Warfield, and other great black concert singers. On occasional leaves from Porgy, she sang new songs and song cycles by American composers, including Lou Harrison, John La Montaine, and Samuel Barber.

However, her Bess proved she had the instincts and the voice for the operatic stage, and the Met itself recognized this by inviting her to sing “Summertime” at a “Met Jamboree” fund-raiser on April 6, 1953 at the Ritz Theater on Broadway. Price was therefore the first African American to sing with the Met, if not at the Met. That distinction went to Marian Anderson, who, on January 7, 1955, sang Ulrica in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera.

In November 1954, Price made her recital debut at New York’s Town Hall with a program that featured the New York premiere of Samuel Barber’s cycle “Hermit Songs”, with the composer at the piano. (They had performed the world premiere of the cycle the previous fall at the Library of Congress.) Then, opera opened its door to her through TV. In February 1955, she sang Puccini’s “Tosca” for NBC-TV Opera, under music director Peter Herman Adler, and became the first African American to appear in a leading role in televised opera. Several NBC affiliates (not all Southern) canceled the broadcast in protest.

That March, Andre Mertens, Price’s agent at Columbia Artists, arranged an audition for her at Carnegie Hall with the Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan, then touring with the Berlin Philharmonic. Karajan declared her “an artist of the future” and invited her to sing Salome under his baton at La Scala. (On the advice of Miss Kimball and Mertens, she declined.) In 1955-56, 1956–57 and 1957–58, Price made recital tours across the U.S. in the Community Concerts series, and toured India (1956) and Australia (1957), sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

She took her first steps onto the grand operatic stage in San Francisco on September 20, 1957, singing Madame Lidoine in the U.S. premiere of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites. A few weeks later, Price sang her first Aida, stepping in for Italian soprano Antonietta Stella. The following May, she made her European debut at the Vienna Staatsoper on May 24, 1958, as Aida, under Karajan. There followed debuts at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (replacing Anita Cerquetti), and at the Arena di Verona, both in Aida. She returned to Vienna the following year to sing Aida and her first onstage Pamina in The Magic Flute, and in the summer of 1959, made her debut at the Salzburg Festival in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, under Karajan.

Over the next decade, Karajan conducted Price in many of her greatest performances, in the opera house (Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Verdi’s Il trovatore and Puccini’s Tosca), in the concert hall (Bach’s Mass in B minor, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Bruckner’s Te Deum, and the Requiems of Verdi and Mozart), as well as in the recording studio (complete recordings of Tosca and Carmen, and a bestselling holiday music album A Christmas Offering—all of which are available on CD).

On May 21, 1960, she made her first appearance at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, again as Aida. She was the first African American to sing a leading role in Italy’s greatest opera house. (In 1958, Mattiwilda Dobbs had sung Elvira, the secondary lead soprano role in Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri.)



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22 Responses to Saturday Open Thread

  1. Pingback: My Great, Great Great Aunt | As Candi Sweet

  2. rikyrah says:

    Karl Rove’s Frankensteins

    Friday, February 08, 2013 | Posted by Deaniac83 at 2:57 PM

    The latest installment of the GOP civil war, sparked by President Obama’s resounding re-election, involves a battle between two of our most beloved right wing figures: Karl Rove and The Donald. Backing up the birther crowd that refers to itself as the Tea Party, Donald Trump took umbrage at Rove’s new Super PAC aimed at defeating the super-crazies in Republican primaries, calling Rove a “total loser.”

    It is true that Karl Rove is a consummate political strategist. He does not care one iota about what his candidates believe. He only cares about one thing: winning. Right now, even he can read the writing on the wall. Even he can see that demography is destiny. Even Rove can see that the American electorate is fast growing more diverse, less tolerant of prejudices, and more embracing of social responsibility. Not that Karl Rove believes in diversity, tolerance or social responsibility, but even he can see that Republicans can no longer win national races with rhetoric about how women ought to be forced to carry rape-pregnancies to term.


    The dirty little secret that Karl Rove and his fellow Republican strategists won’t tell you is that their 2012 strategy worked exactly as planned. On the people they planned. Mitt Romney got more than 60% of the white vote – which in fact was the Republican strategy. What they were shocked to find out was that in 2012, 60%+ of the white vote could not deliver the White House to their candidate.

    And so now, suddenly, they scurry about to try to fix the message. After fueling the fire of hatred, prejudice and fear for the better part of his carrier, Karl Rove wants to hide it from the public view. After actively creating the Frankenstein that is now the Republican base, after giddily supporting it, now Karl Rove has a problem: he is not the only one that can see the Frankenstein anymore. Dog whistles of racism, homophobia and misogyny have become blowhorns. The Frankenstein that is the most proud creation of Karl Rove’s is now threatening the goal for which he created the Frankenstein – to win elections

  3. rikyrah says:

    Immigration Reform Strategery

    by BooMan
    Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 03:57:37 PM EST

    If it’s true that the House of Representatives will not authorize any pathway to citizenship in their immigration reform bill, it will create an interesting scenario. I am assuming that the Senate has the votes to create a pathway, and I’m assuming that they will pass a bill. The House can try to meld their bill with the Senate bill in conference, but the pathway issue will have to be resolved one way or the other. If it’s not, the reform effort will die in conference.

    Maybe that is where this is all heading, but that seems like an unsatisfactory result for everyone involved. I still see it as a smarter bet for Boehner to orchestrate a failure to pass any bill out of the House and then to allow a vote on the Senate version with limited opportunities for amendments. The alternative, if he does want a bill to pass, would be to cave on a pathway in conference, and then pass it with a majority of Democratic votes. That seems a harder sell to his base and his caucus if they haven’t tried and failed to pass their own version.

  4. rikyrah says:

    The Continuing Keystone Fight, Ctd

    Feb 9 2013 @ 9:23am

    David Roberts called for activism in the Keystone XL fight. An Alberta-based reader responds with some local perspective:

    Your David Roberts quote (Fuck you. Watch me) reminded me again that Americans know so very little about Canada and Canadians and what the tar sands represent to the people of Alberta. I live in Alberta outside Edmonton. You’d have to look long and hard to find anyone from here to the far north whose life isn’t touched to one, or many degrees, by the oil industry. By and large, we’ve ridden out the current recession thanks to the tar sands and aside from a small (compared to the overall population) number of activist groups, everyone here knows we have the tar sands to thank for our standard of living.

    Without a pipeline, the bitumen will flow by just rail, where the likelihood of derailment makes a spill more likely than shipping by pipeline, and Albertans will support any means to ship bitumen because they know it is the source of the province’s economic well-being. In fact, the common response to activists around here (especially American ones) is a snarling “fuck off”. No one here is willing to downgrade their standard of living so Americans can feel better about not actually giving up their first world lifestyle, which makes development of the tar sands profitable in the first place.

  5. rikyrah says:

    A Permanent Peasant Class

    Posted on 02/08/2013 at 5:00 pm by JM Ashby

    I’ve long assumed that House Republicans and a majority of Republicans in the Senate would oppose immigration reform, if not categorically, then piecemeal, but the alternative some of them are proposing is far more horrible than even I would have imagined.

    Under Labrador’s proposal, which reflects an alternate route sought by House Republicans, undocumented immigrants would receive a visa that allows them to live, work and travel in and out of the United States, but without the right to vote or become a green card holder or citizen.

    “Some people are calling it a blue card or a red card,” said the conservative Latino congressman. “I think we should treat them with dignity, but we should also be fair to millions of people that are waiting in line, that are trying to do it the right way. … We have a large majority of the House of Representatives that wants to do something right now.”

    You can live, work, and travel here. You can contribute to society. But you can never become part of society.

    This would essentially legitimize the system we currently have and formally enshrine the status quo into law while doing nothing to solve the problem. It would establish a permanent underclass of society that is free to mop our floors and pick our vegetables, but never vote and never be counted as a Real American. A servant class of peasants.

    Why don’t Republicans want to solve the problem? Here’s a spoiler — because they don’t actually believe it’s a problem. The only reason they’re feigning concern is because they’ve painted themselves into an electoral corner and their ability to stoke racial animosity for political gain is waning.

    They want to keep their servants. They want a permanent underclass willing to work for less. One that can never vote against them.

    That may sound harsh, but they should feel free to prove me wrong.

  6. rikyrah says:

    I just watched last week’s Scandal again.

    there were so many powerful moments.

    I think my second favorite scene, after the Huck in the elevator was Cyrus and James – they were so damn intense. it was a fabulous scene, and I loved that James knew all about Cyrus’ flaws and was quite clear about who he married, but still loved him.

    James- tell me you stole the White House.



  7. rikyrah says:

    Scandal Postmortem: Shonda Rhimes Teases What’s Next for Olivia & Co.

    Feb 7, 2013 11:00 PM ET
    by Natalie Abrams



    Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn

    [Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Thursday’s episode of Scandal. Read at your own risk!]

    The President of the United States is… a murderer! Yes, Fitzgerald Grant took a life. Even if that life was going to be cut short soon anyway, it’s still murder!

    Thursday’s episode of Scandal — which would’ve served as a season finale had ABC not picked up the political fixer drama for a full season — revealed who really put the hit out on Fitz (Tony Goldwyn): It was Verna (Debra Mooney)! Shocker! She revealed the betrayal to the President on her deathbed, filling him in on the why: The Illuminati — Olivia (Kerry Washington), Cyrus (Jeff Perry), Mellie (Bellamy Young), Hollis (Gregg Henry) and Verna — had rigged the election that won him the White House. But she planned on also revealing the news to David Rosen (Joshua Malina), who would finally have the hard evidence he needed to blow this scandal wide open. Faced with the possibility of having his legacy tarnished, Fitz decided to eliminate the problem and kill Verna instead. Gasp!

    Scandal Burning Questions: Will Fitz get a divorce? Will OPA find out about the election?

    But our hearts really broke when Fitz, who earlier in the episode asked Olivia to wait for him, went back on his word. This led Olivia to deduce that the POTUS had uncovered the truth. Sad face!

    So what’s next for Olivia & Co.? caught up with executive producer Shonda Rhimes to get the dish on how Fitz will deal with the Illuminati, Scott Foley’s juicy new role and (wait for it!) a new, more kickass Quinn (Katie Lowes)! Check it out:

    Are the remaining members of the Illuminati now off the hook for being formally charged with election rigging?
    Shonda Rhimes: David has painted himself into a corner and gotten himself into a hole that he can probably never get out of. He’s probably no longer the threat that he was. For now, things are peaceful. We’re coming into the next episode not suggesting that everything is fine, but when you come back 10 months later, you see where things have gotten.

    How is Fitz a different president now knowing this and having murdered Verna?
    Rhimes: The betrayal he experienced was really damaging, more so from Olivia than anybody else. Mainly because Olivia, the one person who believed in him, voting to rig the election, basically said, “Everything your father ever said about you is true,” in psychobabble terms. For him, it’s a really damaging moment. He’s a different kind of president. I think, in a weird way, he might be a better president because he has just a different attitude towards everything. He’s definitely doing a lot of this on his own, which I think is interesting. Who he feels like he can lean on and who he can trust comes into play when we come back in this next episode. You really see them all dealing with: Is Fitz confident now?

    Fitz is staying with Mellie?! Why does she get a pass? Is it because he expects something like this from her?
    Rhimes: I think there are two things. One, you know that Mellie is a monster in his mind … so it doesn’t hurt when Mellie does something like this because that’s who Mellie is. He thought Liv was somebody else and something else. He thought it wasn’t about him being president, that it was about her caring about him. It wasn’t about ambition and the search for power. It was about their relationship. Two, I also think that in the guilt that comes from having killed Verna, [he feels that] Mellie [is] all he deserves. That’s what that was about. When he says, “No matter who I am and what I’ve done,” Mellie can’t judge because she’s just as bad in a lot of ways.

    Scandal Postmortem: Shonda Rhimes answers burning questions!

    How is Olivia dealing with her role in this betrayal 10 months down the road?
    Rhimes: What I love about Olivia Pope is that she’s still Olivia Pope and she’s found her ways to cope with this and deal with it. We come back 10 months later and the wounds are that much deeper — they’re 10 months deeper, not 10 months healed, for all of them. But everybody is coping. Olivia is not a curl-up-in-the-corner-and-cry kind of person. She’s doing what needs to be done. She actually has a scene where she talks about how she’s coping. And she is, very well. That relationship is never going to go away.

    What was the decision behind the 10-month jump?
    Rhimes: Ten months feel like just the right amount of time for Olivia and Fitz not to be catatonic. It just felt right emotionally, and a political season could’ve gone by and people have gotten their act together. You come back in the middle of things and discover where people are emotionally and what’s happened to them. You discover what’s happened to David since you left him.

    What can you tell us about the charge to the finale in the second half of the season?
    Rhimes: It’s an off-shoot of, and part of the consequences of, Defiance, in a way. That’s how it begins, anyway. It’s something that grows larger and is more twisted than you’d expect. We introduce Scott Foley’s character, [Jake Weston], in the first episode back. He’s got a pretty great entrance, and he turns out to be a really interesting character from the moment we meet him to the moment we leave him at the end of the episode. He’s a very complex and interesting character who’s going to shake things up for us a little bit.

    Any truth to the rumor that he may be a love interest for Olivia?
    Rhimes: That’s an interesting rumor. It’s possible. I don’t know that Olivia is emotionally ready to have a love interest at this point.

    Speaking of her love life, is Edison (Norm Lewis) gone for good?
    Rhimes: I never say anybody is gone for good on this show because you never know. Will we be seeing him any time in the foreseeable future? Not for a little while.

    Scandal Postmortem: What’s next for Fitz? Tony Goldwyn speaks!

    Since you say the second half of the season is a consequence of the first half, could we see the return of Governor Reston (Tom Amandes), whom Fitz stole the presidency from?
    Rhimes: I don’t think the second half is a consequence in a way that you think, but it’s possible that we could see Governor Reston. It’s interesting because Reston is a murderer himself, so it’s not like he’s the most delightful guy in the world who should’ve been president. We like Governor Reston and he was a great foil, so it’s possible we might see him.

    Turning to Cyrus, he almost had his own husband (Dan Bucatinsky) killed and he had Amanda Tanner (Liza Weil) killed. When does he start paying for these sins?
    Rhimes: I don’t know that he does. We’re not telling a moral story here where at the end, people get their just deserts. Not yet anyway and not for a very long time. A lot of the time, Cyrus is one of our protagonists. You’re rooting for Cyrus. Sometimes Cyrus is our villain, but sometimes he’s not, so I don’t necessarily know that Cyrus pays for anything.

    Will he have to be accountable to Fitz for the election rigging?
    Rhimes: I think they’re all paying for that, including Fitz. Part of what Thursday’s episode was about was that nobody is all good and nobody is all bad. Everybody in this world is light and dark. So they’re all paying for it in their own way.

    Scandal: Our 3 craziest theories why Huck was set up

    Quinn made the choice to stay with the Gladiators, but will she finally get some closure?
    Rhimes: When we come back, Quinn has taken a really interesting journey. Huck [Guillermo Diaz] has really taken her under his wing and is training her to do what he does right now. So you come back to a fairly different Quinn. She’s a lot darker than she was and she’s much more his right hand. We’ve had a lot of fun with these episodes watching the evolution of Quinn as she works with Huck. It’s been really nice to see. She’s not as naïve as she was, her innocence is gone and she’s let it go.

    Were you surprised that Fitz killed Verna? Are you sad about Fitz and Olivia not being together again? Hit the comments!

  8. rikyrah says:

    What Rove’s War Will Look Like

    by BooMan
    Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 12:56:01 PM EST

    I agree with John Dickerson. Tea Party folks probably shouldn’t be gearing up for war with Karl Rove. Or, maybe they should be, I don’t know. Let’s consider what Rove’s Conservative Victory Project is likely to do, in practice. We already know that they will support someone in Iowa who is not Rep. Steve King. They will probably oppose Michele Bachmann if she chooses to challenge Sen. Al Franken in Minnesota. They will try to find someone to replace the retiring Saxby Chambliss in Georgia who isn’t entirely crazy, although that may be hard to do. If Lindsey Graham or Susan Collins or Thad Cochran or Lamar Alexander or Mitch McConnell have any primary challenges, Rove’s outfit will try to crush them. In West Virginia, they’ll try to assure that Rep. Shelley Capito Moore wins the nomination to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
    Now, if you think Steve King and Michele Bachmann can win statewide, I have some crack cocaine for you to smoke. If you think it will help the Republican brand to have King and Bachmann running statewide and making daily national news, I need to up my offer to a speedball.

    Rove is trying to increase the odds that the Republicans can win back the Senate. I don’t know what the Tea Party is trying to do.

  9. rikyrah says:


    The GOP prayed for bad weather to strike the 2008 DNC. It was sunny and beautiful for Candidate Obama.

    The next week, in MINNESOTA, they got a HURRICANE. Minnesota? Really?

    They prayed for bad stuff to happen during the 2012 DNC, but they went first and got a HURRICANE.

    They prayed for bad stuff to happen to Pres. Obama in October but they’re the ones who got the October Surprise: another HURRICANE.

    Now a snowstorm is jacking up their chances to get on the ballot in MA.

    “Somebody’s” trying to tell them something…but they just ain’t listenin’…

  10. rikyrah says:

    February 9, 2013 at 9:48 am

    You gotta give the GOP props for always out-crazying themselves on issue after issue. Economy, budget, social issues, VRA, etc. In 2011, Boehner gloated all over the TV and inter-webs that he got “98% of what he wanted” in the debt ceiling deal and now it’s Pres. Obama’s fault? Now they’re listening to Krauthhammer and the WSJ and pushing for sequestration?

    Do they not understand that sequestration hurts their talking points, lobbyists, and base? Over $500B will be cut from Defense and the GOP’s talking point goes poof! Sequestration while horrible greatly affects the republican side of the aisle more than the Democratic. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the like are spared from sequestration so if the GOP wants to go ahead, then “Please Proceed.”

    Pres. Obama has a bigger bully pulpit and has actually put a plan out there to avoid sequestration and what is the GOP doing? Shooting themselves in the foot once again. *sits back and eats popcorn*

  11. Ametia says:

    Which is folks; should the POTUS have no power? If he presides, it’s not good enough foor some. If he asks Congress to do their jobs; he’s a bully, if he upholds his oath to defend America against all enemies at home or abroad, he’s misusing his POWERS.

    Or here’s the meme for the last few weeks “UNCHECKED POWERS.”

    Not one of these cable networks have mentioned one word about the LAPD’s “mistaken” shooting of two women, while they hunt down the ex cop shooter like the wild animal hey’re behaving like.


  12. Ametia says:

    First lady among guests at Chicago teen’s funeral, but family says it’ll be about slain girl
    By Associated Press,
    Updated: Saturday, February 9, 2:13 AM

    CHICAGO — First lady Michelle Obama will join some of Illinois’ most recognizable politicians and clergy Saturday to mourn a 15-year-old honor student whose death has drawn attention to staggering gun violence in the nation’s third-largest city.

    But Hadiya Pendleton’s family says her Saturday funeral service won’t be about politics, but about remembering a girl who loved to dance, once appeared in an anti-gang video and died just days after performing at one of President Barack Obama’s inauguration events.

  13. [wpvideo bZJnLtjY]

  14. Good morning, everyone!

    Rikyrah, I have loved loved your series. You did an outstanding job presenting and telling the story of our beautiful black women. Big Up!

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