I'm going to cut everyone some slack in the replay of Aida, 1985, from Leontyne Price's last performance anywhere in a staged opera. The previous season she presented at the Met the last performance of her other signature role from La Forza del Destino. It starts slow and warms to an intensity seldom seen today.
"Celeste Aida" is tough. I always remember that when Pavarotti did his first Aida in San Francisco that the papers panned him. It's tough. But McCracken carries his weight after that. Cossotto comes out of the box roaring and carries this to the end. Perhaps she knows that she will be remembered for this performance.
But this performance is about Leontyne Price. I cannot top what I said years ago about the Blue Album which I used to play in my dorm room at college:
"To begin here tends to set ones standards absurdly, artificially high.
Forever after I thought anyone should be able to do that gorgeous open,
almost raw sound, that unbelievably fat middle tone, those awesome high
notes. Anyone should be able to hit a high C and spin it back to a
pianissimo. Right? How hard can it be?
"And that perfect, fluid phrasing, that perfection of ornamentation, that
flawless instinct for scooping and sliding in Verdi, that must be a
dime a dozen. Must be.
"And that reckless intensity, that daring passion, there must be hundreds of those.
"But no one who could approach this ever came again. For Bellini it's
Callas, but for Verdi there is no one who ever could touch the one and
only, never to be seen again Leontyne Price. Herbert von Karajan said
that her singing gave him goose bumps. Yes."
And our Aida rerun from the Met captured my attention as seldom happens these days. Our hearts are with them to the end.
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