Music: What Price Glory, Leontyne!

The prima donna assoluta sings her last operatic role

The toughest decision a famous performer has to make is knowing when to quit. The invigorating roar of the crowd and the trappings of celebrity are hard enough to relinquish voluntarily; it is even more difficult to walk away from something one has spent a lifetime attaining. Retirement is particularly agonizing for singers. Pianists and conductors have been known to perform into their 80s or even their 90s, but opera stars know that biology is destiny. Some time in their 50s or early 60s, the powerful, flexible and ultimately mysterious instrument that has been the source of their artistry frays, cracks...

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