1963 / Oil on canvas / 50 1/4”x36 1/4” / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
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Previous September 20 posts:
Rosalind Elias (1930)
Mike Stoller (1933)
Sarah Caldwell (1924-2006)
Kiri Te Kanawa (1944)
Leontyne Price received many honorary degrees as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1965), the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), and the National Medal of Arts (1985). Her many recordings earned nineteen Grammy Awards, and she received a special Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989. For her performance on Live From Lincoln Center, Leontyne Price, Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic, Price received the 1982 Emmy award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.
Price has been described as a “lirico-spinto” soprano with a 3-1/2 octave range. Her rock-solid vocal technique and purity and her dramatic flair have been combined to create a mix suitable both for the opera and concert stage.
– See more at: http://www.afrovoices.com/price.html#top
Maria made her first professional appearance in von Suppe’s Boccacio in 1939 and sang the leading part in Tosca in 1942. After a series of disappointments and resenting envy by her colleagues, she returned to the American land of her birth. She lived there for two years (1945-1947), met the bass Nicola Rossi – Lemeni and through him came to know the tenor Giovanni Zenatello, artistic director of the Arena of Verona. Maria Kalogeropoulos left for Italy, met the industrialist Giovanni Batista Meneghini, married him, became Maria Callas and experienced her artistic life’s curtain raiser without suspecting that she was about to emerge as the lyric theatre’s most brilliant personality. Her first appearance in Italy as La Gioconda was directed by Tulio Serafin. Her acquaintance with him would lead her to new forms of expression. http://www.hri.org/MFA/thesis/autumn97/callas.html
Callas’ ability to sing such a wide range of roles was one of the things that led to her meteoric rise. But critic Conrad Osborne says it also contained the seeds of her vocal decline. Callas’ voice was already starting to fail her by the time she was in her 40s — quite young for an opera singer. A number of factors, including a rapid loss of weight, may explain why. But Osborne, who also teaches voice, says Callas lacked the proper technique to sustain her ambitious repertoire.…But for Callas fans like James Jorden, the diva more than made up for her vocal flaws with her talent for bringing the music to life. Her imperfections set her apart, and her ability to find the emotional meaning in a role was unsurpassed. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123612228
By the time of her retirement, she had performed more than 40 different roles and had recorded more than 20 complete operas. Callas’s personality and philosophy of performance are powerfully depicted in Terrence McNally’s play Master Class (first performed and published 1995), based on her classes at Juilliard. http://www.britannica.com/biography/Maria-Callas
Few opera stars have led such an impressive career. For over a quarter of a century, her coloratura voice captured the stages of Paris, London, Buenos Aires, Mexico, and the United States. Like Mario Lanza and Luciano Pavarotti, she acted in second-rate films about opera stars, which were surprisingly well-attended. As a child, I recall her appearances on variety shows and heard her on the radio at least once a month. Today, there is a Lilypons, Maryland (and its main street, Lily Pons Rd.). Even a contemporary rock group has named itself after her. She was the Three Tenors of her day.
Her sweet soprano voice had an extremely high tessitura. It was said she could hold a high D for about a minute. The Metropolitan Opera revived roles especially for her, like Delibes’ Lakmé, Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Le Coq d’or.
In addition to her fabulous voice, Pons had another distinction — having a Maryland post office named for her. In 1932, the tiny Frederick County post office of Lilypons opened for business. “It was a dot on a map, because nobody has ever been quite sure what to call it. Lilypons, Md., was never a city, town or even a hamlet,” said The Evening Sun in 1986. “It is now what it has always been: one frame building surrounded by a small cluster of ponds nestled into a peaceful crook of the Monocacy River eight miles south of Frederick. Its only inhabitants have been rare goldfish and beautiful blooming waterlilies.” In 1963, during a period of cost cutting, the Postal Service discontinued the Lilypons postmark and combined its functions with the nearby Buckeystown post office. A plaque commemorating the tiny post office was mounted on the building in 1986.
Marian Anderson, contralto, was denied the right to perform at Constitution Hall by the DAR because of her color. Instead, and at the urging of Eleanor Roosevelt, Harold Ickes permitted her to perform at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939.
The message of Marian Anderson’s Lincoln Memorial concert~
Marian Anderson: Musical Icon~
Marian Anderson: A Life in Song~ http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/rbm/anderson/
11th March 1867 – Theatre Imperial de l’Opera, France
Don Carlo started out life as a five-act opera that ran for approximately four hours. Based on Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien by Friedrich Spiller, this lengthy piece saw Verdi put the music to a French libretto by Camille du Lode and Joseph Mery. After the opera had been written, it was found to still be too long during the rehearsal period. Since the audience would need to leave before midnight, further cuts were made during this time in order to make sure that the opera finished before this deadline.
11th March 1851 – La Fenice Opera House, Italy
One of the most acclaimed Verdi operas, Rigoletto at one point, was very much a case of “touch and go”. The three-act opera, based on Victor Hugo’s play “Le roi s’amuse”, came under close scrutiny of the Austrian censors. …However, by January 1851, a breakthrough was reached, albeit with a number of amendments to the original work. The original setting of the royal court of France was to be changed either to a duchy of France or Italy, while many of the characters were to be renamed, notably the jester, who went from Triboulet to Rigoletto. With the deadline for the premiere looming, Verdi managed to complete the work by early February, leaving a month to spare.
A dramatic soprano with a voice of mammoth proportions, Eva Turner, though scarcely neglected in her native country, enjoyed many of her greatest successes abroad. Most closely identified with the title role in Turandot (which she first sang in Brescia only a month after its premiere), she brought to all of her roles a voice of both enormous size and great cutting power, topped with an unflagging ease in the highest register. While not always an illuminating actress, she approached all of her work with seriousness of purpose, thorough integrity and no small measure of excitement.
Biography and interview here~ http://www.bruceduffie.com/evaturner.html
The internationally famed soprano, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, was born Claire Mary Teresa Rawstron in the small New Zealand seaside town of Gisborne, where Captain James Cook first made landfall. Just at the edge of the international date line, it prides itself as the first city in the world to greet the sun. Here, the birth child of a native Maori man and a woman of European extraction was adopted at five weeks of age by a local couple, Tom and Nell Te Kanawa, he also a Maori and she with family ties to the British Isles. The Te Kanawas named their daughter Kiri, the Maori word for bell. She was to be their only child.
Her first performances were on a little stage jerry-rigged in the Te Kanawa’s house, complete with a curtain; “the curtains would come back,” she recalled, “and I’d get up and sing.” Without a television in the home, music and singing quickly became the primary entertainment. But although her mom played piano, from early on, Kiri eschewed command performances: “I was rather sort of miffy about it even then. I’d only sing when I felt like it.”