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February 11, 2012

Belated birthday wishes for Leontyne Price

Leontyne Price turned 85 on Friday. I should have stopped what I was doing that day to make note of the occasion, but will try to make amends now.

No singer I have experienced live sent more chills and thrills through me than Miss Price. Something in the timbre is pure magic; something in the phrasing is extraordinarily communicative and meaningful; something in the bearing says "diva" in the best sense of the word.

You will remember Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard" summing up the glorious days of silent movies: "We had faces!" Whenever I hear Miss Price, I think how ...

she so nobly represents a peak of vocal art during a time that could be described with the line: They had voices!

This soprano has lived for art, just like Tosca, so I had to include Miss Price singing "Vissi da'arte" fabulously. And I couldn't resist a modern take on that sentiment -- her sumptuous performance of "What I Did for Love."

Many happy returns, Miss Price.

Posted by Tim Smith at 6:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes

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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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