Mary Violet Leontyne Price (born February 10, 1927) is an American soprano. Born and raised in the segregated Deep South, she rose to international fame during a period of racial change in the 1950s and 60s, and was the first African-American to become a leading prima donna at the Metropolitan Opera.
Price's voice was noted for its brilliant upper register, "smoky" middle and lower registers, flowing phrasing, and wide dynamic range. A lirico spinto (Italian for "pushed lyric", or middleweight), she was well suited to the roles of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, as well as several in operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Her voice ranged from A flat below Middle C to the E above High C. (She said she reached high Fs "in the shower.")
After her retirement from the opera stage in 1985, she continued to appear in recitals and orchestral concerts for another 12 years.
Among her many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1985), numerous honorary degrees, and nineteen Grammy Awards, including 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.
SOURCE: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia