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Subject: The Price Swoop
From: Jason Victor Serinus <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jason Victor Serinus <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 13 Mar 2017 13:31:31 -0700
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I stood at the Met for a Price Aida. It was probably during the period I
attended Amherst College (1963-1967). There was a swoop in either "Ritorna
Vincitor" or "O Patria mia" that was so painful that I and many other
members of the audience gasped involuntary. Then she hit a high note that
was ravishing. When the lights came up, this fey little standee ran around
behind me declaring, with a fabulous lisp, "If you think Ms. Price was bad
tonight, you should have heard her opening night. Ms. Price was a shambles!"

There was also a late Forza at San Francisco Opera where, when it came to
the final "Maledizione!"s, she bent forward and literally shouted the first
two while crossing her arms in front of her and then shooting them out to
the side. It was the weirdest thing I had ever experienced on the operatic
stage. Then of course, she sang the final high note gloriously.

A similar thing happened when she gave a post-retirement recital in the
house. When she sang "Summertime," she switched into speaking the lines "So
hush little baby, don't you cry." The way she shouted them out, I don't
think any baby within miles would have dared utter a peep. During
intermission, I encountered a longtime standee in the house who said to me,
in response to my raised eyebrows, "Ms. Price, freed from the restraints of
directors and coaches, is doing what she has always wanted to do; she's
letting it all hang out."

On the other hand, I recall a recital at SFO where, for her sixth encore,
she pared her voice down to what seemed like a mere thread to sing "my
mammy's favorite lullaby" with a caressing intimacy that I didn't think she
was capable of. It was wonderful. This was after a "Tu, tu piccolo addio"
that was so overwhelming in its dramatic intensity that, when the applause
was dying down, someone shouted from the audience, "Sock it to us,
Leontyne!" She responded by saying, "For my next number, I shall do "La
Canzone di...." There were so many screams of delight that you could hardly
hear "Doretta, from La Rondine by Puccini." God, was she wonderful that
night. We all adored her.

Leontyne Price was a great but variable artist. On the right day, in the
right voice, in the right material, she was unbeatable. Her "Do Not Utter a
Word" and "Depuis le jour," both from the Prima Donna I album of 1965, show
her at her finest. But like most artists, she had her faults and
limitations. Even in arias, she could get lazy, and slip into bad habits
rather than taking the care necessary to finish phrase swith impeccability.
And, as mentioned earlier, there were performances when she seemed to walk
through everything but the arias.

Some of our greatest artists have had to address their limitations head on.
Recall the Lehmann Leonore from Salzburg with Toscanini where she
transposed the second half of the aria, or the filmed "O soave fanciulla"
with Tebaldi and Bjorling, where, again, there was a key change in the
middle so that Tebaldi would not have to attempt a high C. On that score,
Tauber always faked his high C.  Such limitations did not make them any
lesser as artists.

jason victor serinus


---
Jason Victor Serinus http://www.jasonserinus.com     Whistler
Extraordinaire: **The Voice of Woodstock • The Pavarotti of Pucker**
Music and audiophile critic: Seattle Times, Port Townsend Leader,
Stereophile, Listen, San Francisco Classical Voice, Bay Area Reporter, Gay
City News, American Record Guide, Classical Voice North America, Stanford
Live, Opera Now, Copper, and more

"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the
tormentor, never the tormented.” — Elie Wiesel

“This is a time to remember all of us who are LGBTQ. It’s a time to stand
out and be proud, to parade who we are, to celebrate and to let them know
we will not be silenced, we will not be stopped, we will not go back into
the closet. Together, we will love.” — JVS at our Orlando Massacre Support
Rally in Port Townsend, WA

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