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Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Georges Bizet
Genres: Special Interest, New Age, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #1

This 11-CD set, one might say jokingly, contains all the music ever written for the soprano voice and a bit for mezzo as well. And indeed, it's a staggering collection: In addition to her great Verdi heroines (the two Leon...  more »


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This 11-CD set, one might say jokingly, contains all the music ever written for the soprano voice and a bit for mezzo as well. And indeed, it's a staggering collection: In addition to her great Verdi heroines (the two Leonoras, Aida, Amelia, and Elvira in Ernani), Price is heard in her Puccini roles--Manon Lescaut, Butterfly, Tosca--and at least two dozen other roles, most of which she never sang on stage. Here are her heroic, secure Leonore in Fidelio, Strauss's high-flying Egyptian Helen, Purcell's Dido, Barber's Cleopatra, Bellini's Norma, Ariadne, Verdi's Violetta and Desdemona, Bizet's Carmen, Mozart's Countess, and Fiordiligi. Some are, naturally, more successful than others; almost none are embarrassing (Carmen comes close). In addition, she sings songs by Schubert, Schumann, and Strauss--none of them as well as say, Janet Baker or Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and Barber's Knoxville, etc.--quite beautifully. Berlioz's Les Nuits d'été is not very good, but a group of spirituals is. In all, however, this is an amazing display by one of the century's greatest sopranos. There may be no new depths plumbed here, but the singing is a knockout. --Robert Levine

CD Reviews

Leontyne Price is the greatest singer in history.
Michael Newberry | 10/24/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The present collection, phenomenal in extent and depth, is a gift to human history. Certainly the Verdi, Mozart, Puccini and Strauss inclusions are to be expected since Leontyne has made them her own, but listen to the Berlioz, extraordinarily vibrant and haunting, melodious and beautiful beyond belief. Her Schumann is a glory of warmth and humanity, rather than the usual German soprano-ice of a Schwartzkopf, for instance. However, speaking of Strauss, the Four Last Songs speaks again to Price's extraordinary humanity, and her performance of these pieces is made for the lover in the voyage of life. Her Carmen is a dream of seductive beauty. There is so much of such extraodinary quality that one is dumbfounded trying to take it all in. Choose anything, her glorious Egyptian Helen, an exquisite, sublime and believable Norma (at last) and, of course, her Bess, the perfect measure for any soprano. Finally, her Traviata works very well in such a big voice, although it may be a vehicle too handsome, too beautiful for the role, and then one must listen in wonder to her Knoxville Summer, Ave Maria, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Holy, Holy, Holy, Ride On King Jesus and Were You There?! Truth to tell, she is the singer against whom all other singers are measured, male and female, and in every vocal category, voice and song type. One aria from her is worth more than an entire opera from any other singer. She is truly the singer of singers, the contemplative diva and, in a word, God's soprano."
Brava! Can we have more? "Essential 2, perhaps?"
Michael Newberry | Santa Monica | 08/18/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Leontyne Price is one of the great artists of the 20th Century. She possesses a glorious highflying voice that is agile, full bodied and she has the uncanny ability to oscillate from smoky lows through rich middle tones to ethereal highs. When you combine all that with the passion she projects and the thoughtfulness she imbues to the lyrics, you get, something like, heaven on earth. I saw this compellation, jumped for joy, and bought it; it since has given me ecstatic pleasure. There are many excerpts from her famous roles. What is fascinating are some of the arias from operas she didn't perform or didn't record complete. If you want to know what a great Verdian singer she is listen to what she does with La Traviata, a role she never performed or recorded, and compare that to any Violetta. For years I had been looking for a CD version of her "Blue Album", Puccini and Verdi arias, and I was delighted that some of the tracks are here, like the riveting death aria of Butterfly's. I am not a musical expert, don't know the ins and outs of performance technique, but I love her Mozart. Some people have said that she is romantic, too warm and passionate for him. Interestingly, Maria Callas in The Master Class (the 3 CD set), said that most singers are too careful with Mozart, and Leontyne definitely goes full throttle. All the takes from Cosi Fan Tutti are beautiful. There are two CDs here of duets with the likes of Domingo, Horne, and Corelli. It can also be read "Operas Greatest Moments". A section of the spirituals, accompanied by the Rust College Choir, with no orchestra, is very powerful though it is quite understated. The mood, rhythm, and expression in I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free haunts me in my dreams. Were You There, sung acapella, is something I experience very... still, very quite in my soul. There is a difference between Leontyne's Spirituals and the live performance of Spirituals with Norman and Battle. The latter have the feeling of bravado in their singing, but Price has pathos, and something fastidious-like, even though she is singing for us there here is something private. Lieder is not my "cup of tea", but I think that is mostly because they are intimate songs where the words matter a great deal, and there is less musical drama. But when I understand what she is singing, like the Barber's Knoxville, it's a very moving experience. Obviously, I am a fan. But this collection is not easy; it takes time to assimilate it all, but then, think what it took to make it. Its really a small price to pay for Leontyne's dedication and genius, and isn't fantastic that such music and such a voice can be had on CD."
The greatest american soprano of the 20th century
Michael Newberry | 12/11/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This collection of arias, art songs, and spirituals is truly amazing for the sheer breadth and depth of this soprano's artistry. It is hard to imagine any Verdi soprano after Ms. Price who could offer us the smoky richness of her vocal color, and there are so many wonderful selections, many of them being roles she did not perform on stage. Among my personal favorites are her scene from Dialogues of the Carmelites, the Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, and the drama of her Lady Macbeth. For those of us who heard Ms. Price over the years in opera and concert, this collection brings back wonderful memories...It is truly a must-have for any serious opera lover."