Monday, September 29, 2014

Elena Souliotis Fans Rejoice For "Norma" Release On Compact Disc

Diva Turn: Souliotis in her prime.
(Photo: Francesco Scavullo)
Previously only available on compact disc in Japan, the 1967 recording of Bellini's Norma featuring 24-year old soprano Elena Souliotis now gets an international release thanks to the Eloquence label. Sporting the original cover photo shot by Francesco Scavullo, this recording can be counted among the most worthy of owning. At times the young singer is vocally gentle and serene, while other moments (namely those with powerhouse veterans Fiorenza Cossotto and Mario Del Monaco) she is ferocious and fearless. Once thought of as a worthy successor to Maria Callas, the career of Ms. Souliotis burned hot and brief. The soprano spent most of her time in the studio during the mid-1960s setting down full operas and recital discs for posterity. Originally recorded for Decca, the opera makes its worldwide debut for which many fans have been clamoring. Gramophone reviewed this set when it was released: "Elena Souliotis has the power, ferocity, energy for the role [...] Mario del Monaco’s 'Ferisci, ma non interrogarmi' is a splendid moment [...] Cosotto’s tone is always full and beautiful [...] Silvio Varviso’s direction is pleasantly spirited [...] The recording is spacious, clear and well-balanced." From the liner notes: "Bellini’s advice to librettists in 1834 might profitably hang above the desks of all who would pursue this singular art today: ‘Carve in your head in adamantine letters: Opera must make people weep, feel horrified, die through singing. It is wrong to want to write all the numbers the same way, but they must all be somehow shaped so as to make the music intelligible through their clarity of expression, at once concise and striking.’ Much of it could apply to his opera Norma. Most of the music was written between September and November 1831 at Blevio on Lake Como, where Bellini was a guest of the great diva Giuditta Pasta, who created the role of Norma. For more than a decade she was the greatest soprano in Europe and undoubtedly influenced the development of Bellini’s vocal style. This recording, made in Rome in 1967, featured the great
Souliotis (left) with Maria Callas
Greek soprano Elena Souliotis. Silvio Varviso conducts and the emphasis is on the drama and the creation of three-dimensional characters. It’s an approach that suited Souliotis. Her interpretation ranges from the ravishing simplicity of her ‘Casta Diva’ to desperate mood swings in the scene with the sleeping children (‘Dormono entrambi’) and in her dealings with Pollione. Mario Del Monaco is as strong as ever as the Roman proconsul Pollione; his high notes ringing and unforgettable. Adalgisa is sung by Fiorenza Cossotto (b. 1935), Italian mezzo-soprano regarded by many as one of the finest mezzos of the twentieth century." [
Source] Full cast list and information about Elena Souliotis can be found after the jump.

Label: Decca Eloquence
Cat No: 4807277
Norma Elena Souliotis; Adalgisa Fiorenza Cossotto; Pollione Mario Del Monaco; Oroveso Carlo Cava; Flavio Athos Cesarini; Clotilde Giuliana Tavolaccini
Ensemble: Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Conductor: Silvio Varviso
Recording Producers: Erik Smith, Christopher Raeburn
Recording Engineers: Gordon Parry, James Brown
Recording Location: Santa Cecilia, Rome, Italy, 21 August – 3 September 1967

"The Australian Eloquence series is beautifully packaged according to a generic design with stylish and elegant artwork. Every CD contains friendly, detailed and informative notes, largely commissioned especially for this series. The recordings stem from the archives of four great record companies whose logos are shown above and have been lauded and applauded by critics and journals the world over, including International Record Review,, Musicweb International and the various Penguin Guides." [Source] Purchase the opera here.

A young starry-eyed Souliotis
"Elena Souliotis (spelled Suliotis in the early part of her career; Greek: Έλενα Σουλιώτη; May 28, 1943 – December 4, 2004) was an operatic soprano. Elena Souliotis was born in Athens, Greece, of Greek and Russian parents but moved with her family to Argentina at an early age. She studied with Mercedes Llopart, who also taught Renata Scotto, Anna Moffo, Fiorenza Cossotto, Ivo Vinco, Alfredo Kraus, and Francisco Kraus. She made her debut in 1964 as Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana in Naples. She made her United States debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago during the 1965-66 season as Elena in Boito's Mefistofele; her colleagues in that performance were Renata Tebaldi, Alfredo Kraus and Nicolai Ghiaurov. Other roles that she went on to sing soon afterwards were Luisa Miller, Amelia in Un ballo in maschera and the title role of La Gioconda. A partial list of other operas in which she sang during the first part of her career (1964–1974) include Verdi's Aida and La forza del
Decca's go-to girl in the late 1960s
destino, Donizetti's Anna Bolena, Puccini's Manon Lescaut, Catalani's Loreley, Bellini's La straniera, Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, and Susanna in Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina. She gave a recital at Carnegie Hall in 1976 and disappeared from the scene shortly after that. The role for which she is best known is Abigaille in Verdi's opera Nabucco. She made a recording of this role for Decca/London in 1965 (opposite Tito Gobbi, and conducted by Lamberto Gardelli), and gave a performance of the role on opening night of La Scala's 1966-67 season. Within the next couple of years, she also recorded Santuzza (with Mario del Monaco and Gobbi, 1966) and the title role in Norma (with del Monaco, 1967), the latter in an abridged recording that was much maligned when it was initially released. In 1968-69, she recorded Donizetti's Anna Bolena (with Marilyn Horne), a role she had sung at Carnegie Hall to open its 1967-68 season (with Plácido Domingo, Horne, and Dame Janet Baker), and, in 1970, Verdi's Macbeth (opposite Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,
Marilyn Horne watches Souliotis dance with Afred Hubay
Nicolai Ghiaurov, and Luciano Pavarotti, conducted by Gardelli). In 1970, she had changed the spelling of her name from Suliotis to Souliotis. She also recorded arias from Un ballo in maschera, La Gioconda, Luisa Miller, Anna Bolena and Macbeth (the last two before she had recorded the complete operas). She made her London debut on November 3, 1968, when she sang Abigaille in a concert performance of Nabucco at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, an event mounted by the London Opera Society. The cast also included Piero Cappuccilli and Boris Christoff, and the conductor was Mario Gusella. In June 1969, she made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, singing Lady
Elegant portrait of the soprano
by Allan Warren
Macbeth for the first time. Souliotis was scheduled to make her Metropolitan Opera debut as Lady Macbeth during the 1969-70 season. However, due to a strike, the first few months of the season were canceled. Souliotis never sang at the Met. The received opinion is that Souliotis's early assumption of difficult roles damaged her voice. After an absence from the stage that lasted several years, she began a second career in secondary roles, beginning in 1979. She sang Fata Morgana in Sergei Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges in Chicago and Florence, and went on to sing in such operas as Prokofiev's The Gambler and Puccini's Suor Angelica, in the latter as the Zia Principessa. Her recording of this latter role, in 1991, opposite Mirella Freni, was her final studio recording. Toward the end of her career, she sang the role of the Comtesse in Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades in several venues, and gave her farewell to the operatic stage in this role in Stuttgart in February 2000. Elena Souliotis died of heart failure in 2004 in Florence, Italy, aged 61." [Source]

See the various LP covers and Japanese CD incarnations the recording has had in the past:
United States release on London Records

English pressing on Decca Records

French LP of highlights

CD featuring highlights from the complete recording

The 2nd Japanese CD pressing featuring a cropped photo

The 1st Japanese pressing on CD

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