Joelle Lamarre talks Leontyne Price ‘The Violet Hour’ and 3Arts

Joelle Lamarre as Leontyne Price in “The Violet Hour (Photo credit: Eddy “Precise” Lamarre)

Joelle Lamarre is a world renowned soprano. Her voice is emotional, powerful and clear. Her performances around the world have been met with great praise and acclaim. In the summer of 2019 Lamarre made her debut in California when she joined The Long Beach Opera for the World Premier of Anthony Davis Central Park Five.The Singerprenuer reviewed, “… with Joelle Lamarre expertly lending her exquisite soprano to play mother to two of the boys, as well as singing the role of the crime’s victim from offstage.”

In 2017 Lamarre created The Violet Hour. The Violet Hour explores the career of Leontyne Price the internationally acclaimed soprano who was the first African American to become a leading performer at the Metropolitan Opera. Lamarre explores Price from her early life up until her final performance of the opera Aida at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1985.

In February of 2020, Lamarre launched a campaign with 3Arts to raise funds in order bring her play The Viiolet Hour to a wider audience via a new cast, crew and new producers.

We spoke to Lamarre about The Violet Hour and why its important to share the story of Leontyne Price.

Why did you write The Violet Hour?

The independence of being a black woman in the 50’s and 60’s in the United States is so important to me. It’s important to express, show and to allow other people to understand what it means to be a single, black and a female entrepreneur. Leontyne Price is the epitome of that and it need to be shared.

What is the importance of this workshop you are creating?

I want to honor Leontyne, but I felt something was missing in the first iteration of the show. So I asked myself: How can I get Leontyne’s story to the level of excellence that she so deserves? What is next for The Violet Hour? 

So I was given an opportunity with 3Arts to have a campaign, and raise $5,000 and 3Arts matches 1/3 of that $5,000.  With funding from this campaign, I’ll assemble workshop readings with professional teams to refine and mount the piece. The first phase will be with a dramaturg, director, and music director to help shape the script and notate changes. Then I’ll hire a cast of singers and actors to learn the piece as key performers. Finally, I’ll bring the crew together for an open-book performance that will be documented and presented to possible producers. This will help expand people’s knowledge of Leontyne’s extraordinary contributions to opera and the music industry in this country.

Talk about the representation of Black faces in Opera. Why is it necessary?

As an artist, Leontyne Price had a larger-than-life presence and a regal demeanor that inspired and touched people deeply, including myself. Early in my career I used to study performance recordings and interviews she gave. I knew I wanted to do a recital one day to honor her, but her story was also important to me as a single, Black woman, and entrepreneur. For me, Leontyne is the epitome of that. 

The Violet Hour production traces Leontyne’s extraordinary journey from the beginning of her career to her final performance of Aida at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1985. For this performance she received a 42-minute standing ovation, the longest in the Met’s history. This piece is ready to be a complete dramatic work that reveals the full scope of Leontyne’s power and what it is to be a live artist of her caliber.

What’s next for you?

This work. My job right now is not to give up on making this show better and to continue to connect my work of the Violet hour with an audience that will appreciate the art that she brought to this world.  My intention is to have a workshop where I’m able to discuss the development, growth and how I can work to make this experience a loving, fulfilling experience that is full of understanding, empathy, compassion, and  complexity. 

What words do you have for those looking to go into theatre?

So here is what I have to share: it’s important when you’re trying to do or go somewhere in your career to really ask yourself how is it that I want to move in my career? Where do I see myself going? because if you can find that, then you can create steps to get to that.-


Stream “I’m Dreaming (Don’t Wake Me)” by Precise below.

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