Soprano Leontyne Price (1927-) was born Mary Violet Leontine Price on this day in Laurel, Mississippi. The first African American opera singer to achieve international fame, she once observed, "Accomplishments have no color."
Her dedication to music began with the gift of a piano at age five. "I was center stage," Price remembered, "from the time I received that toy piano... I had the disease then..."
Following three years at Julliard School of Music in New York City, she was cast in Virgil Thompson's Broadway opera Four Saints in Three Acts (1952). Two months later she appeared as Bess in an revival of Ira Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.
Brilliant in Verdi's Aïda and Puccini's Madame Butterfly, she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1961 with Il Trovatore and received a remarkable 42-minute ovation.
"Art is the only thing you cannot punch a button for. You must do it the old-fashioned way. Stay up and really burn the midnight oil. There are no compromises," said Price who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1965 and became the first opera singer awarded America's highest civilian honor.
When she retired in 1985, she said proudly, "I prefer to leave standing up, like a well-mannered guest at a party."
About fame, she observed, "Once you get on stage, everything is right. I feel the most beautiful, complete fulfilled. I think that's why, in the case of uncompromising career women, parts of our personal lives don't work out. One person can't give you the feeling that thousands of people give you."
Give yourself the time to be successful.