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Subject: Re: a final word on Leontyne Price
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 14 Mar 2017 15:30:49 -0700
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I did hear Price live a number of times. My perceptions agree with some here.

What my ears tell me: when she first came to attention in the 50s, she had a beautiful, luminous lyric soprano voice with an amazing high extension. I've recounted here going to a 1971 SF "Trovatore" and, entering the opera house from Grove St., was startled to hear her vocalizing full voiced high Fs that didn't sound anything like the end of the road.

Her voice was definitely of a smaller, lighter caliber than other sopranos singing Aida when she started in 1957 (Tebaldi, Rysanek, Milanov) but the purity and focus of her sound and that high register enabled her to find an effective way to sing it on her own terms.  Same with the "Trovatore" Leonora. 

That voice and technique were also perfect for roles like Liu and, in the right venue, even a lyric Tosca (I'm actually not a big fan of the Wagnerian banshees in that role). She ran into problems of scale that caused her a trainwreck with Minnie.

It sounds to me like shortly after her recovery from the "Fanciulla" crisis, she made some conscious choices. She apparently wanted to continue with "big girl" roles and wasn't any longer interested in things like Liu. What I hear her doing, starting as early as 1963, is puffing up the middle register, putting more air into it and creating more volume but with it some coarsening of the tone. This change made her low notes more hoarse and toneless. However, she was able to do it (probably after a lot of experimentation) without getting in the way of her upper register.

One result was that the top, while free and beautiful, was relatively small compared to the rest of her voice.

This way of singing let her continue successfully with roles like the "Forza" Leonora and "Ballo" Amelia that, I think, would have otherwise been too heavy for her natural instrument. Sometimes more successful than others but, always, the top coming to her rescue.

Over time, this created a coarsening of sound in her middle voice and a very hollow low register, but getting into the 70's her top actually got larger and kept its quality.

This all sounds worse than the actual experience. I think she was pushing her voice beyond natural limits but she was so talented and the basic material so good that she turned out a large number of superb performances and a few painful ones.

In the mid 70's she seemed to be deteriorating. Somehow, she seemed to get herself pulled back into much better shape for the Salzburg "Trovatore" under Karajan and her White House recital and, whatever she did, seemed to give her several more years of overall good singing.

At least that's how I heard her. But I never missed a chance to see her, whether in opera or in recital.

Max Paley



Sent from my iPhone

> On Mar 14, 2017, at 14:15, walter guitian <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Though I never heard Price in live: She was not a Verdian  soprano not dramatic voice at all. They say she sounded big, but even Freni had a big voice and Caballe ,no one were dramatic singers. But Price darkened all her career her middle voice. Her bottom is a horror without focus, and the top disappears, straight. Three completely different voices. That is what I hear after recordings. Not to mention her totally unmusical manners .  By my opinion hearing her on youtube a Gilda aria with E''' she was a natural, big voiced coloratura. Again: This is my opinion.It would have been interesting to listen to her middle opened, not covered, I think it would have fitted her top much better. I always felt her a "made" voice, not a natural singing.Singers who sing Aidas is long sessions, sing the role for decades are (suprisingly) not Verdian voices, usually big voiced liricos, like , Price , Tucci, or the best one among them Chiara. In Hungarian Staatsoper Ilona Tokody was a nominated Aida, who was a tipical big voiced lirico puro, not even spinto.Real, drammatic Aidas, sang the role not so often, I have three Ghena Dimitrova "live" Aidas , one from Spain 1982, other from Paris 1984 and another one from La Scala 1985  and she has bitter accidents with the C in "O patria mia" in the three performances,  I share with you her 1984 Paris performance with bad vibrato on the top so it was technical fault and very short C that she misses the note on 1:31:34
> Dimitrova Bartolini Obraztsova Fondary - Aida 1984
> 
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> Dimitrova Bartolini Obraztsova Fondary - Aida 1984
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> Walter
> 
>      De: Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
> Para: [log in to unmask] 
> Enviado: Martes, 14 de marzo, 2017 13:57:41
> Asunto: Re: a final word on Leontyne Price
> 
> I will waste another posting - I forgot Elisabeth Rethberg - 20 years as
> Aida at the Met.  She started in 1922 and ended as Aida in 1942.  I'll bet
> if I checked it, Lucine Amara might have some sort of a record also, if
> only because Lucine sang soo long and kept her voice in fighting shape for
> so long.  None of this of course has anything to do with Price's glorious
> reign as Aida.
> 
> Donald
> 
>> On Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 9:53 AM, Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> 
>> Zinka Milanov sang her first Aida's in 1928 in Zagreb and 1929 in
>> Dresden.  Her first at the Met was Feb. 2, 1938 and her last in 1958 at
>> with the Met at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on May 1, 1958.  This was
>> probably her last Aida ever.  But thats a 30 year career total over all, 20
>> years at the Met.  That is probably a Met record.  She also sang it in
>> three languages - Serbo-Croatian, German and Italian.  I am sure she is not
>> the only one, but Price's 27 year career as an Aida is spectacular and few
>> have matched it, few have exceeded it.
>> 
>> My favorite Price recording - other than the Blue Recital?  The Butterfly
>> she recorded with Tucker.  Exquisite.  Price/Tucker and Tebaldi/Bergonzi
>> killed it for me.  It has never been sung as exquisitely since.  (The
>> Steber/Tucker is not chopped liver either).  As for Price's other
>> recordings, the Salzburg Trovatore with Price, Simionato, Corelli,
>> Bastianini & Herbie Von K is stunningly amazing.  (LOL - don't kill me for
>> that hyperbole)
>> 
>> Donald
>> 
>> On Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 12:06 AM, Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
>> wrote:
>> 
>>> Overlooking her extraordinarily long singing career before the public,
>>> and having seen her live in only a few operas, but lots of concerts and
>>> recitals, and being the owner of most of her recordings, It's my feeling
>>> that
>>> it's pretty hard to find any real fault with most of her work.  The voice
>>> was
>>> without peer in her time, and if she made a few miscalculations in
>>> repertoire choices (Thais in Chicago and Fanciulla in New York), she more
>>> than compensated for it in the operas she chose to undertake.  The
>>> miraculous preservation of her voice is amply demonstrated in her final
>>> Aida (and performance) at the Met in January 1985 at the age of 58, by
>>> which time she had been singing the role since she first performed it in
>>> Vancouver in 1958.  I know of no soprano who could shoulder Aida over
>>> the course of such  a long career.  And I'd like to know of a soprano
>>> TODAY
>>> who could sing Aida as well as Price still could  when she hung up her
>>> opera shoes in 1985.  I just watched the DVD (I have the performance in
>>> great sound and picture) and the audience response to "O Patria Mia" (and
>>> her reaction to it) is still something for the opera history books.
>>>       My essential Price treasury:  her Madame Lidione Scene in
>>> "Carmelites"
>>> as presented in French on her Prima Donna III recording, her "Rondine"
>>> aria on her "blue album", the Awakening Scene from Strauss' "The
>>> Egyptian Helen", Marietta's Lied from "Die Tote Shtadt", her "Como
>>> Scoglio" from "Cosi Fan Tutte", Donna Anna's "Non mi dir" (from Salzburg
>>> in 1960 with Schwarzkopf's Elvira, and "Du Bist Der Lenz" from Die
>>> Walkure.
>>>       She was fluent in sung English, French, and German, and she sang in
>>> all of those languages.  She had and preserved a magnificent vocal
>>> instrument.  Of course, a certain hoarseness and a bit of fog crept into
>>> the
>>> lower register in the 1970s, but when one looks at the overall track
>>> record
>>> and the "complete package", it's pretty hard to find serious fault with
>>> one
>>> of the smartest sopranos in opera history, who managed her career with a
>>> shrewdness and panache that was second to none.  I doubt whether we will
>>> encounter her like again.  What a life!  What a career!
>>> 
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>> 
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