Mary Violet Leontyne Price is an American soprano. Born and raised in Laurel, Mississippi, she rose to international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s, and was the first African American to become a leading performer at the Metropolitan Opera, and one of the most popular American classical singers of her generation.
Reviewing her televised farewell opera performance at the Met in 1985, as Aida, one critic described Price’s voice as “vibrant,” “soaring” and “a Price beyond pearls.” Time magazine called her voice “Rich, supple and shining, it was in its prime capable of effortless soaring from a smoky mezzo to the pure soprano gold of a perfectly spun high C.”
After her retirement from opera, she continued to appear in recitals and orchestral concerts until 1997.
Among her many honors and awards are the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Spingarn Medal ,the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts , numerous honorary degrees, and 19 Grammy Awards for operatic and song recitals and full operas, and a Lifetime Achievement Award, more than any other classical singer. In October 2008, she was among the first recipients of the Opera Honors by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2019, Leontyne Price was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Boston Conservatory at Berklee.