Leontyne Price stood like a fortress, her hands in another intertwined, her voice streaming as strong, distinct, and colorful as bells from a cathedral telling time to believers and non-believers all the same.
A clear sign of patience is hearing her phrasing and seeing her face expand. Think of the iconic three minutes following her “O patria mia” on January 3, 1985, at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Acoustically, the aria had ended. The very last note had kept eyes and mouths wide open for some 13 seconds, before she would shut down every sound and movements on her part, shifting abruptly into monumental stillness, partly acknowledging proforma the loud manual and vocal reception of praise from those present, while simultaneously gathering in body and spirit all that she had taken in and delivered on the stage and in life, up until that January third.
Stoic, she froze for some 20 seconds, before her mouth began to quiver, her chest expanded, signaling restrained emotions. Several times in more than three cheering minutes, she found composure, before her eyes repeatedly tried retaining the tears. Her lips tightened, her throat and chest looked for relaxation, though still vibrating with the emotion of listening herself to what she had just sung, while being influenced by the resonance of a full house of three thousand eight hundred, celebrating what she delivered that very moment, but also what she delivered over thirty-five years of her global diva status.
Today I celebrate her ninety-fourth birthday.
Mary Violet Leontyne Price was born on Feb 10, 1927 in Laurel, Mississippi.