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Harold Moores

Leontyne PRICE
Giuseppe VERDI

Aidaa (1871) – Ritorna vincitor! [6’55]; Qui Radamès verrà [1’32]; O patria mia [5’14]. Il trovatore (1853) – Che più t’arrestib? [2’28]; Tacea la notteb [4’31]; Di tale amor che dirsib [1’25]; Timor di me? … D’amor sull’ali rosee [5’19]c.
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Madama Butterflyd (1904) – Un bel dì vedremo; Tu? Tu? piccolo Iddio! (Morte di Butterfly) [2’50]. La rondine (1917) – Chi il bel sogno di Dorettae [2’48]. Tosca (1900) – Vissi d’artee [3’15]. Turandotf (1926) – Signore, ascolta! [2’33]; Tu che di gel sei cinta [2’34].
Leontyne Price, bLaura Londi (sopranos)
Rome Opera Orchestra/adefOliviero de Fabritiis, bcArturo Basile.
Rec. June a27th, d29th, ef28th, f29th, 1960, bcJuly 15th & 22nd, 1959. ADD
RCA RED SEAL LIVING STEREO SACD 82876 61395 2 [46’18]


On September 30, 1966 I bought an EP entitled "Belcanto in Opera". It contained four Puccini arias. It also contained the most glorious soprano singing I had ever heard. Since then I have heard these arias sung, live and on record, literally hundreds of times but I have still had the sounds from that old RCA EP singing inside my head. The singer’s name was Leontyne Price.

When I got this CD for review and found out that here are these four arias, two each from Butterfly and Turandot, in the very recordings I once had, it was with some trepidation I put it in the CD player. Would it be like those school reunion parties where you go with high expectations only to find out that you and that old mate from the teens are not on speaking terms any more? It wasn’t! Miss Price still communicated just as vividly as she did all those years ago, only with even more power, more clarity, more dynamics on this latest incarnation of what was her debut recital. The new disc is SACD and perhaps multi-channel equipment would give an even stronger experience, but through my old two-channel system the sound was good enough to move me, just as it did in my youth, even if there were one or two signs of distortion in the Trovatore excerpts. But, never mind. This, dear reader, is the most magnificent lirico-spinto soprano sound committed to disc during the last sixty years – with the possible exception of Tebaldi on peak form. But no, not even she could produce such a golden stream of absolutely steady tone, so beautiful, so penetrating, so warm. Here at 33 the voice was still so pure, free from the smoky quality that became more and more prominent later in her career.

"Now wait!" I can hear some grumpy objections, "A good voice it was but what about interpretations?" All right, there have been singers who have managed to delve deeper into these characters, Callas for instance, but Price was no mean actor and she never for a second became bland. There is an intensity in her singing that more than compensates for any lack of voice colouring. It could also be argued that the singing is too formidable for the seventeen-year-old Butterfly, but whatever shortcomings there may be the singing as pure singing silences any criticism.

We also meet Miss Price in three of her greatest roles, roles that she continued to sing all through her career. The booklet note quotes a critic who heard her La Scala debut (in 1960), saying "Our great Verdi would have found her the ideal Aida". She recorded this opera complete just two years after this recital, again in Rome with Solti conducting. Her O patria mia at marginally slower speed is perhaps a little more reflective, but the singing is just as glorious. That also goes for her complete Tosca with Karajan the same year, while in 1972, when she recorded it again, this time with Zubin Mehta, the voice has thickened a little, even if it still is a magnificent instrument. We also have here Leonora’s two arias from Il trovatore, recorded as early as 1959. And this is another piece of thrilling singing; just listen to her delivery of the cabaletta Di tale amor.

Nothing to carp at, then? There are no texts and translations, but that doesn’t matter much since all these arias are standards; and playing time is short, even with almost 15 minutes from the complete Trovatore thrown in it plays at just over 46 minutes, but 46 minutes with singing of this calibre is worth even twice the price. I do not expect to hear a better recital this side New Year’s Eve, probably not afterwards either.

Göran Forsling

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