‘Written’ by Teresa McMillan, Blog Contributor
If you have already read The Vital Sacrifice, then you already know that I am a soprano opera singer. I love what I do and I have been doing it quite well since I was a child.
My fondest memory of childhood was when I was in my room playing with my dolls. I believe I was about 5 years old and I remember that Diana Ross’s song, “Home” was playing on the record player one Saturday morning as my mom was cleaning around the house.
I always liked that song and for some reason that day, I started to sing along with Diana. I was in my own zone so I didn’t realize that my mom had stopped cleaning to come and listen to me. When it got to the part where she says “… a world full of love, like yours, like mine, like home,” my young lungs belted out those words very strongly and passionately in the same way that Diana does.
Needless to say, that was my favorite part of the song and I was singing it to my dolls as if they were my audience. I was startled by my mom clapping for me. Of course, when I noticed a real audience – my mom – I became shy and withdrawn. With tears in her eyes, my mom praised and hugged me, astounded by my singing voice.
I knew at that moment, that singing was my God-given talent – and so did my mom. From that point on, there were lessons galore. My mom wanted me to eventually, go to college for singing so she pushed me in the direction of opera. From about age nine forward, I was listening to some of the greatest operas, opera singers, and composers of all time.
By the time I went to college, I had seen and heard multitudes of soprano opera singers and tried to mimic them all but I hadn’t been exposed to African American women singers until doing research for one of my courses. No one touched me like Leontyne Price.
In my research, I found out that she was born and raised in Laurel, Mississippi and had a very busy childhood filled with music lessons just like me. Unlike me, she took piano lessons while my mother emphasized voice lessons for me.
As I implied earlier, my rendition of Diana Ross’s song “Home” set my singing career in motion; but, Leontyne, recalled that watching Marian Anderson sing at Lincoln Center influenced her at a young age. By her own admission, Leontyne wanted to be just like this great opera singer who preceded her. What I love about Leontyne Price and, even about Marian Anderson, is that both seemed to excel in the opera world despite the extraordinary odds against their success due to racism. Both were born during a time of extreme segregation and often they had to perform for audiences who may have despised them for their skin color but admired their extraordinary vocal talent.
Luckily, I had not experienced much of the segregation that she faced growing up and subsequently while on tour, so I can’t speak much about this. But, I will say that her grace under pressure as an opera singer was one that I always keep in mind in all of my encounters with other people as I travel the world performing. I believe that if she could continue to maintain her eloquence despite all the obstacles in her way, then I certainly could, also.
I was not able to view any of her performances live because she retired in 1985; however, I did have the opportunity to watch most of them on DVD. I also read her interpretation of Giseppe Verdi’s Aida opera in her book entitled, Aida. After reading this book and watching the video of her opera performance at the Met, I knew without a doubt that this Aida role was meant for me someday; so, I was ecstatic when my agent, Miguel Velasquez, told me that I would play this star role.
I want to take a moment and pay homage to, Leontyne Price, my favorite opera singer and the living legend whose example propelled me forward in the direction that I have chosen with my opera career.
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Disclaimer: These blog articles are attributed to characters found in the novel, The Vital Sacrifice, and this blog is a fictitious representation of the characters in the book speaking on what interests them based on their role in the novel. These blog articles are post-publication characterizations and are meant to entertain niche audiences who may be interested in purchasing or who have already purchased this novel.