How often do you get a moment to talk to an iconic voice from your childhood, and one that will endure throughout generations thanks to the magic of the Blue-Ray platform and continued preservation of a Walt Disney Classic?
Mostl likely, never. But Monsters and Critics had a rare opportunity to speak with the flaxen-tressed muse and voice of Princess Aurora from the Disney Classic “Sleeping Beauty”, now released in a special dual DVD presentation.
Tennessee beauty Mary Costa’s fate changed dramatically one night by accepting simple party invitation. A chance meeting paved the way for the blonde beauty born April 5, 1930 in Knoxville, Tennessee, to become a prominent American singer, best known for playing the voice of Princess Aurora in the 1959 Disney film Sleeping Beauty.
Costa began like many singers do, performing at Sunday School solos until a fortuitous family move to Hollywood as a young teen.
As a young woman, she performed with famed ventriloquist act Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on radio, and then with the nascent comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on stage.
In 1952, at that fateful party, she found herself auditioning for the part of Disney’s Princess Aurora. Walt Disney called her personally within hours of the audition to inform her that the part was hers.
Costa pursued opera as a career and was lauded by critics for her performances, and her repertoire of operatic roles took her all over the world. Costa appeared in Jules Massenet’s Manon at the Metropolitan Opera, and Violetta in La traviata at the Royal Opera House in London and the Bolshoi in Moscow, and Cunegonde in the 1959 London premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.
In the early sixties Ms. Costa recorded Musetta in La bohème, with costars Anna Moffo and Richard Tucker, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. Among numerous roles sung for San Francisco Opera, she was Tytania in the American premiere of Britten’s A Midsummer Nights Dream (1961) and Ninette in the world premiere of Norman Dello Joio’s Blood Moon (1961).
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy requested Ms. Costa’s performance for the memorial service for her husband, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, from the Los Angeles Sports Arena in 1963.
In later years Costa took her multi medium expertise and experience and channeled it dedicating her career to inspire children and teenagers with motivational speeches and school appearances to help foster a love of the arts with children.
Mary Costa received the 1989 Lifetime Achievement Award of the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation. She then was honored In November 1999 with the Disney Legends Award – her handprints are a permanent part of the Disney Legends Plaza at the entrance to Disney Studios.
The Metropolitan Opera Guild honored Mary in 2001 for her distinguished Verdi performances of the 20th Century. The National Council of the Arts award was bestowed upon her in 2003 by President Bush.
Ms. Costa received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in December 2007 by Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, TN
Monsters and Critics had a few questions for Mary Costa, Princess Aurora.
How did Walt Disney find you?
Mary Costa: When I was 22 years old I was asked to go to a dinner party with a close friend who thought I might meet some influential musical people at the party, and indeed I did.
After dinner I joined some people who were singing around the piano. The gentleman on my right was Walter Schumann, musical director for Walt Disney Studios.
He listened as I softly sang, and then told me that Walt Disney had been looking for a voice for the Princess Aurora for three years. He asked if I would meet him at 10:00 AM the next morning to audition for the role.
I immediately accepted, and the next day I auditioned. Walt Disney was listening to me from behind a screen, so as not to be influenced visually by my performance.
I was told years later that he knew I was the voice of the Princess after only one phrase of music.
It must be a wonderful thing to hear your voice eternally youthful still delighting so many generations of children; how do you feel about that?
Mary Costa: When I was six years old, the first movie I saw was Snow White. I was so entranced with the film that I pranced around using a bath towel as a cape until my Daddy persuaded my Mother to make me a royal blue velvet cape.
Certainly I never imagined that I would grow up and be chosen to be a Disney Princess. I treasure the honor of being a part of the Disney Legacy.
Many years ago Walt Disney opened the magical doors to the kingdom of make-believe. I feel blessed to be a part of a classic film that will warm childlike hearts for generations to come. There is nothing sweeter than seeing a child’s smile when they know I am the voice of Princess Aurora.
What is your favorite scene in Sleeping Beauty and why?
Mary Costa: I like all of the scenes in Sleeping Beauty because I love all of the
unique characters. My favorite part would probably be the opening of the scene in the woods when the Princess is calling to the birds and animals.
When I arrived at Walt Disney Studios for my audition, the first recording I was asked to do was the “birdcall” and I cannot remember being more excited than when George Bruns, the music director, said, “That was perfect!”
Also, when Briar Rose is talking to the prince at the end of the scene in the woods, I always smile when she says she can never see him again, and in a matter of seconds she decides she should see him that evening at the cottage in the glen. True Romance!
Sleeping Beauty (50th Anniversary Two-Disc Platinum Edition) is now available at Amazon. It is available for pre-order at AmazonUK for an Oct. 27th release. Visit the DVD database for more information.Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.