Photo credits: Sony Entertainment/Dave Hecht
The Metropolitan Opera House (also called the Met) is located on Broadway at Lincoln Square on the Upper West Side of the Manhattan borough within New York City, New York’s limits.
Part of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Met was originally designed by Wallace K. Harrison. It opened in 1966 and replaced the first 1883 Metropolitan Opera House at Broadway and 39th Street. With a seating capacity of approximately 3,850, the Met is the largest repertory opera house in the world.
Home to the Metropolitan Opera Company, the facility also hosts the American Ballet Theatre in the summer months. The Met Gala, also known as the Met Ball, is an annual fundraising gala, which is held for the benefit of this lofty American institution of the arts. Some of today’s most prominent celebrities in entertainment attend the Met Gala annually.
However, on January 27, 1961, a world-renowned African-American woman from yesteryear made her debut performance at the Met. Her remarkably unique soprano was showcased for the first time in history at a setting, which was built toward the beginning of America’s anti-black, post-slavery timeframe called the Reconstruction Era.
Leontyne Price (pictured) was born and raised in Laurel, Mississippi. She rose to international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s. Price 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. Her birthdate is February 10, 1927, and she still lives today.
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.”
A lirico spinto (Italian for “pushed lyric”) soprano, she was considered especially well suited to the heroines of Verdi’s “middle period” operas: Aida, the Leonoras of Il trovatore and La forza del destino. and Amelia in Un ballo in maschera. She also was noted for her interpretations of leading roles in operas by Giacomo Puccini and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
After her retirement from opera, she continued to appear in recitals and orchestral concerts until 1997.
*BlackThen.com writer/historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.