Elene Souliotis © 2012 Adriaan Fuchs. All rights reserved.

Elena Souliotis

“A comet that flashed brightly across the operatic scene and was all too short extinguished.”

– Alan Blyth

 

Great Interpreters:  Elena Souliotis
Broadcast “live” on Fine Music Radio on 21 November 2008.

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Greek soprano Elena Souliotis (1943-2004) was a singer whose career burnt brighter and faster than most. Hailed as the likely successor to Maria Callas, it seemed as though she might fulfil that promise during a brief period in the mid-1960’s when she was in demand in all the major opera houses around the world. She turned the career-killing role of Abigaille in Nabucco into her calling-card and further cemented her reputation by taking on such demanding roles as Verdi’s Lady Macbeth and Bellini’s Norma. But success came at a price: within less than ten years of her professional debut, Souliotis’ voice was in ruins.

An electrifying performer and uninhibited artist, Souliotis brought an animal intensity to many of her performances that has rarely if ever been surpassed. She was a true creature of the stage and used her imposing presence to supplement her peculiarly individual voice, which was certainly Callas-like in its intensity of expression and its erotic frisson, but which was never as controlled in terms of real artistry. “We were so desperate for a replacement for Callas,” noted voal expert Ira Siff, “and we were turned on by that ‘daredevil’ thing that only Callas and Souliotis could do. You really were swept away with the excitement of it to the point where you could overlook some shortcomings.”

Souliotis sang everything with thrilling and reckless abandon. Her choice of roles, too, was fearless, and she took on many of the most demanding roles in opera while still in her twenties. As a result, her voice started to deteriorate rapidly and within a few years her performances became increasingly erratic: she could be in excellent form one night and in near-disastrous form just a few nights later.

Even though Souliotis recorded only six of her roles complete, live recordings exist of almost all of her roles and it is these astonishing, electrifying performances that continue to earn her an ever-growing following. Yet, as one writer pointed out, Souliotis’ recorded output remains at once powerful and saddening: powerful in that each character comes alive like no other version on disc; shocking and saddening when we hear a voice pushed to the very limits of its capabilities and realise the brevity of a career that should’ve lasted considerably longer.

“She just gave a 110 percent – but at what price?” noted Ira Siff. “You have to ask yourself, if she hadn’t been who she was, would she have been the Elena Souliotis we remember? If she had been careful or conserved, I think not. Nobody would have cared about her.” In an age which saw “too many mundane and orthodox singers,” notes Alan Blyth, “Souliotis was a splendidly uninhibited artist.”

Podcast Track List

1) “Nel di della vittoria… Ambizioso spirto… Vieni! t’affretta” from Macbeth (Verdi)
Elena Suliotis (Lady Macbeth)
Conductor: Oliviero de Fabritiis
Rome Opera Orchestra
Recorded: 1967

2) “Voi lo sapete” from Cavalleria rusticana (Mascagni)
Elena Suliotis (Santuzza)
Conductor: Silvio Varviso
Orchestra di Roma
Recorded: 1967

3) “Ben io t’invenni… Anch’io dischiuso un giorno” from Nabucco (Verdi)
Elena Suliotis (Abigaille)
Conductor: Lamberto Gardelli
Orchestra of the Vienna Opera
Recorded: 1965

4) “Piangete voi? Al dulce guidami castel natio” from Anna Bolena (Donizetti)
Elena Suliotis (Anne Boleyn)
Conductor: Oliviero de Fabritiis
Rome Opera Orchestra
Recorded: 1967

5) “Suicidio!” from La Gioconda (Ponchielli)
Elena Suliotis (Gioconda)
Conductor: Silvio Varviso
Orchestra di Roma
Recorded: 1967

6) “Ecco, l’orrido campo… Ma dall’arido stelo” from Un ballo in maschera (Verdi)
Elena Suliotis (Amelia)
Conductor: Silvio Varviso
Orchestra di Roma
Recorded: 1967

7) “Prode guerrier!” from Nabucco (Verdi)
Elena Suliotis (Abigaille)
Conductor: Lamberto Gardelli
Orchestra of the Vienna Opera
Recorded: 1965

8) “Tu puniscimi, o Signore… A brani, a brani, o perfido” from Luisa Miller (Verdi)
Elena Suliotis (Luisa)
Conductor: Oliviero de Fabritiis
Orchestra of the Rome Opera
Recorded: 1967

9) “Pace, pace, mio Dio” from La Forza del Destino (Verdi)
Elena Suliotis (Leonora)
Conductor: Silvio Varviso
Orchestra of Rome
Recorded: 1967

10) “Una macchia e qui tuttora” from Macbeth (Verdi)
Elena Suliotis (Lady Macbeth)
Conductor: Lamberto Gardelli
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 1971

11) “Morrò, ma prima in grazia” from Un ballo in maschera (Verdi)
Elena Suliotis (Amelia)
Conductor: Oliviero de Fabritiis
Orchestra of the Rome Opera
Recorded: 1967

12) “Ah! lo vedi” from Cavalleria rusticana (Mascagni)
Elena Suliotis (Santuzza)
Mario del Monaco (Turiddo)
Conductor: Silvio Varviso
Rome Opera Orchestra
Recorded: 1967

Video

Here is a video of Souliotis singing “Pace, pace, mio Dio” from a “live” performance of Verdi’s La forza del destino at the Teatro San Carlo di Napoli in 1966:

iTunes

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