V0028. LEONTYNE PRICE, w.David Garvey (Pf.): Songs by Samuel Barber - Live Performance, 30 Oct., 1953, Library of Congress; w. Schippers Cond.: Knoxville: Summer of 1915; ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA - Two Scenes (both Barber) - recorded 1968. RCA 61983. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 090266198320
"...the Leontyne Price disc is indispensable, as hers was one of the composer's favorite voices and the one for which the 'Hermit Songs' and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA were originally intended and for which the latter, at least, was ideally suited....she and her voice were important factors in Barber's career as a vocal composer. Available for the first time on recording is the world premiere performance of the 'Hermit Songs', done, along with four other songs, at the Library of Congress in October 1953 - one year before the famous studio recording - again with the composer as pianist - that has long loomed as the definitive performance of this cycle (currently available on Sony MPK-46727 [V2391]). The sound quality is, of course, better on the studio recording, and the performances are more secure, but some nice touches of spontaneity emerge from this concert document. Incidentally, the reading of 'The Daisies' is something of a revelation, as Price and Barber give it a quick, almost casual light-heartedness that is quite different from the way we are accustomed to hearing it. Though KNOXVILLE was never 'hers', Price characterized the work with a boyish innocence that penetrated more deeply than many other otherwise superb versions. KNOXVILLE has been the beneficiary of many excellent recorded performances, but Price's is as fine as anyone's. Despite its unpromising beginnings, the 1966 ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA has since been steadily winning admirers and vindicating itself as one of the composer's mature masterpieces, and Price's towering performances of these two scenes have been a significant factor in rehabilitating its reputation. Listeners not yet familiar with the opera, or with the dramatic scene 'Andromache's Farewell' or the choral cantata 'The Lovers', have major musical epiphanies awaiting them."
- Walter Simmons, FANFARE, Sept., 1994
"After earning her degree from College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce, OH (where she studied with Catherine Van Buren), Leontyne Price was awarded a scholarship to attend the Juilliard School of Music where she continued vocal training with Florence Page Kimball. Upon hearing her there, Virgil Thomson invited her to sing Saint Cecilia in the 1952 revival of his FOUR SAINTS IN THREE ACTS. She then toured the United States and Europe as Bess in Gershwin's PORGY AND BESS (1952-1955); on this tour she met and married bass-baritone William Warfield who was singing the role of Porgy.
In October 1953, Price sang the premiere of Samuel Barber's HERMIT SONGS at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and she gave her first New York recital in November 1954. In December of the same year she sang Barber's PRAYERS OF KIERKEGAARD with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Her appearances in TOSCA, DIE ZAUBERFLOTE, DIALOGUES DES CARMELITES and DON GIOVANNI on television brought her to wide attention for both her outstanding singing, and for being the first African-American leading soprano of note.
In the following seasons, she made her debuts at San Francisco, Chicago, Vienna, London, and Milan. This culminated in her first appearance at the Metropolitan Opera House as Leonore in IL TROVATORE, an evening that garnered a front page review in The New York Times. The Metropolitan would soon become her favored opera house; she sang most of her wide repertoire there, including Aida, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Leonore in LA FORZA DEL DESTINO, ERNANI, Amelia in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, Donna Anna (DON GIOVANNI), Pamina (DIE ZAUBERFLOTE), Fiorgiligi (COSI), Ariadne (ARIADNE AUF NAXOS), and Tatiana in EUGENE ONEGIN. She sang her last operatic performance there in 1985 as Aida.
Leontyne Price's voice was a spinto soprano of great beauty. She had a wonderful feeling for the sweep of the long phrases of Verdi and her technique allowed her to encompass all of the difficulties of Donna Anna (DON GIOVANNI) and Elvira (ERNANI). Her lower register had a quality often described as 'dusky' which many listeners found quite sensual. Most of her important operatic roles were recorded by RCA, but only a small fraction of her recital repertoire found its way onto disc. Leontyne Price will always be remembered as one of the greatest Verdi sopranos of the twentieth century."
- Richard LeSueur, allmusic.com