Leontyne Price: "What a pleasure it was."
James N. Carder (March 2012)
The famous American soprano Leontyne Price (b. 1927) performed twice for the Friends of Music at Dumbarton Oaks. On January 17, 1957, she sang the role of Cleopatra in a concert performance of Handle’s opera Julius Caesar with the American Opera Society. On March 9, 1961—the same year that she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera and a year after she debuted at the Staatsoper in Vienna under Herbert von Karajan—she gave a recital with the renowned conductor Thomas Schippers (1930–1977) as her accompanist. This recital included songs by Gabriel Fauré, Richard Strauss, and Samuel Barber. John S. Thacher, then director of Dumbarton Oaks, had arranged these performances, calling upon his friendship with “Tommy” Schippers to secure the latter engagement. Schippers wrote Thacher: “The only way to deal with Leontyne at this point is to tell her what to do. She has so many parasitic cronies around her now that nothing ever gets done.” Following the recital, Price wrote Thacher (below): "Just a note to say what a pleasure it was to come to Dumbarton Oaks and how much I enjoyed it." This letter and other documents pertaining to the Friends of Music at Dumbarton Oaks are retained in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives.