A classic collection, now in (somewhat) improved sound
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 03/31/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When this CD was originally released in 1988, the Gramophone reviewer rightly complained about the digital sound, which made Leontyne Price's glorious soprano sound at times foggy, breathy, and edgy. The original analog tapes are from 1971, 1973, and 1976, but RCA doesn't sort the arias out chronologically. Anyone who heard Price in prson knows that her voice was anything but edgy. This midline reissue resorts to 24-bit reprocessing, which brings a noticeable improvment. Still, expect the singer's voice to get hard in its top range and to produce some listening fatigue at loud volume -- such was my experience.
As for the performances themselves, Price was unparalleled in Verdi -- only Callas surpassed her dramatically, not vocally. Therefore, I would turn to her two-CD "Verdi Heroines" first and foremost. Puccini's "little women" are more fragile and softer than Price's natural temperament. As gorgeously as she vocalizes Musetta's Waltz and "Mi chiamano Mimi," Price's voice is two sizes too big and her force too heroic for La Boheme. Only Tosca fit her perfectly on stage, although an improbable role like Cio-Cio San came off beautifully in the studio.
I know that ocuntless fans will disagree and consider her ideal in Puccini and Verdi both. What we can agree on is that this CD gives us 71 min. of a voice that was one of the most sheerly beautiful in opera history, and that will never cease to be cause for celebration."