Straussian Sumptuousness: "La Splendissima" Leontyne Price s
Donizetti's Kid | NYC, NY United States | 07/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"America's "diva di tutte le dive" soprano Leontyne Price rarely sang the German operatic repertoire onstage - "Die Kluge" "Die Zauberflaute"/"Ariadne auf Naxos" - throughout her illustrous and brilliant career. Thankfully, she included arias and scenas in her concerts and recitals, Richard Strauss' "Awakening Scene" (Egytian Helen) and Salome's "Final Scene" most often. Both are included in this vocally sumptuous RCA studio recorded CD collection of Strauss arias. Recorded in '72/73, Leontyne Price's "juicy lyric" soprano had developed into a formidable spinto with a stronger, darker middle, and a powerful, sterling upper register that seemed positioned to delve into the heavier musical waters of R. Wagner & Strauss. However,the American diva resisted the temptation to abandon the glorious legacy of her Italian-based repertoire(where she reigned supreme). In this concert, Leontyne Price's essaying of the "Frau" scene is simply stunning - dramatically urgent - with requisite power in the middle of the voice off-set by the thrust and freedom of her upper register. Indeed, her thrilling high Dflat has not been bettered(equalled by Leonie Rysanek). The Rosenkavalier monologue is sung sensitively with lovely vocal shadings, but lacks the ruminative quality that informs the finest of the Marschallins. Ms. Price sang the role of "Ariadne" onstage with the San Francisco Opera and at the MET successfully (if not definitely). Ariadne's "Es gibt ein Reich" is sung here with a majesterial, dark-toned beauty that glows in the penultimate section of the aria. Strauss' Salome is a 16 year-old woman-child, usually sung by "drammatische sopran" like the great Birgit Nilsson, due in part to the heavy orchestration. In Ms. Price's hands, Salome's tragically premature and short journey to adulthood is vividly captured, the voice cast in silver rather than steel, alternately viperish, kittenish, perplexed, and finally triumphant. The soprano's vibrant tone is lyric in nature, throbbing with appropriate girlishness, largely missing from more noted Salomes. Leontyne Price was the first artist to record the "Guntram" aria. The quasi-Wagnerian music, complete with heavy orchestration, poses no apparent terror for her, as she sings it with remarkable abandon, plush, creamy tone in the middle yielding to a gleaming, ringing climax of laser-like high notes. The excitement is palpable throughout. Finally, we are treated to a Price specialty, "Zweite Brautnacht", an aria that showcases the full arsenal of this magnificent voice. The exquisite vocalism throughout this entire collection reminds the listener of the incomparable soaring beauty, throb, and ease that made Leontyne Price the reigning Verdi soprano of her generation - and a sterling constellation in Strauss' rarified firmament.