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February 10, 2011

Birthday greetings to stellar soprano Leontyne Price

I couldn't let Thursday pass without a birthday shout-out to the divine Leontyne Price, who turns 84.

I've written before about the impact this great American soprano made on me, just by the way she walked onstage the first time I experienced her magic live. It was only for a recital, but it felt like the grandest night at the opera. Talk about a regal bearing. Add in the radiant smile and you're talking super-majestic. And that was before she sang a note.

Once the concert began, the effect was electric, for there was in her tone the stuff of gold and steel, and in her phrasing the warmth of a genuine artist who seemed to gather everyone into a personal embrace. It was the same whenever I was fortunate enough to hear her sing. (Just a few years ago, I heard her deliver an a cappella account of "America the Beautiful" that could have melted monuments.)

Fortunately, many fabulous performances by Miss Price were preserved. I had a very tough time choosing one to offer here as a way of wishing her a happy birthday -- and saying thanks. I finally settled on

a sizzling excerpt from Strauss' "The Egyptian Helen" -- all the more amazing considering that the soprano was 64 when she sang this in 1991. Almost as much fun as the performance is the ovation afterward -- and the reaction of the late, great Beverly Sills, who was co-hosting the broadcast with the late Peter Jennings:


Posted by Tim Smith at 9:57 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes


Wow. Great performance. Thanks for posting. Happy birthday Leontyne Price.

My dad was stationed in Weierhof, Germany 1959-1962 with her brother, Leon, who was a dentist at the Kaserne. I baby sat her nephew(I think) while Capt.
Price went to a concert she was singing in
one night. Just wanted to see how she and her brother were doing and touch base
with them.
She can write me at my email address if she likes. Thanks in advance.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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