opera-singers

View of soprano Leontyne Price in Puccini’s opera, “Tosca.” Stamped on back: “NBC photo.” Handwritten on back: “Miss Price in Act II.”

  • Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library


Christine Nilsson as ‘Marguerite’ in Charles Gounod’s opera, ‘Faust’, in the year 1864, at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London.

(Photograph source: The Guy Little Theatre and Performance Collection)

And your mind is blown, because, YES, Christine Nilsson (otherwise known as Kristina Jonasdotter), who served as an inspiration for Christine Daae in Gaston Leroux’s “The Phantom of the Opera”, performed in Her Majesty’s Theatre- the exact same theatre where, more than a century later, a musical whose main heroine was likely inspired by her, would premiere and make history.

Don’t believe me? Well, then, there’s this to convince you; 

(Source: “Melba, The Voice of Australia”, by Therese Radic)

[She also sang as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, again in Her Majesty’s Theatre, in 1865]

This is just so unbelievable for me- the moment I found out about this, I had to read it again and again to convince myself that my eyes were not deceiving me. And once I realised that what I had just read, was, indeed, what was printed on the page, I got a headache by how beautifully ironic it is.

Did it ever cross Christine Nilsson’s mind that, half a century after her death, she would be immortalised in the face of Christine Daae? I do not know. What I do know, however, is that she must be turning in her grave right now because of how fascinated I am by this recent discovery.

when you’re so busy thinking about not missing your entrance that you miss your entrance.

Portrait of soprano Leontyne Price in Mozart’s opera, “Don Giovanni.” Printed on front: “Fayer, Wien.” Stamped on back: “Photo, Fayer, Wien I, Opernring 6. Handwritten on back: "Salzburg, 1960. Don Giovanni.”

  • Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library

View of mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett performing in Gluck’s opera, “Iphigenie en Tauride.” Label on back: “Iphigenie in Tauride, Paris Opera.” Handwritten on back: “[copyright] Daniel Cande. 8, avenue Charles de Gaulle, 92100 Boulogne.”

  • Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library

Long live Leontyne Price!

As it turns out, the celebrated soprano is doing exactly that — today marks her 90th birthday.

The sound of Price’s radiant voice got people talking even at the local weddings and funerals she sang at in her youth in Laurel, Miss. Later, thanks to a prominent Laurel family, she had financial backing to study at New York’s Juilliard School. Price’s student performances drew attention there too, leading to her first big break in 1955.

Leontyne Price At 90: The Voice We Still Love To Talk About

Photo: James Heffernan/Metropolitan Opera Archives

Leontyne Price, 1989
Photo © Brian Lanker 2011

Happy Birthday Irene Oliver! (Nov 15, 1937 - May 21, 1998)

Portrait of soprano Irene Oliver. Handwritten on back: “Irene Oliver, 2nd Bess.”

  • Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library