Elena Souliotis (Soprano)

Elena Souliotis croppedElena Souliotis (May 28, 1943 - 2004) 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, and 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 destinoDonizetti's Anna BolenaPuccini's Manon LescautCatalani's LoreleyBellini's La stranieraZandonai'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 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 and the title role in Norma, the latter in an abridged recording that was much maligned when it was initially released.

A year or two afterward, she recorded Donizetti's Anna Bolena (a role she had sung at Carnegie Hall to open its 1967-68 season, and her interpretation of which was largely unchanged by the time she made the recording a few years later) and Verdi's Macbeth. By the time of the latter two recordings, she had changed the spelling of her name from Suliotis to Souliotis. She also recorded arias from Un ballo in mascheraLa GiocondaLuisa MillerAnna Bolena and Macbeth (the last two before she had recorded the complete operas).

She made her London debut on 3 November 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 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.

She continued to sing the killer role of Abigaille in various venues and the difficulty of this role, which also damaged the voice of Verdi's wife Giuseppina Strepponi, along with the many heavy dramatic soprano roles she had undertaken within five years of her debut, began to take a toll on her voice. She could be in excellent form one night and in near-disastrous form just a few nights later.

When she recorded Macbeth, the producers chose to record her versions of "La luce langue" and the Sleepwalking Scene on the same day while she was in excellent form for the period. Evidence from live recordings and the later studio sets show her voice had dissipated rapidly. Its power remained, only the beauty of tone and control over pitch were damaged.

After an absence from the stage that lasted several years, she began a second career in comprimario roles beginning in 1979, mostly in Russian operas. 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 is her final studio recording. Toward the end of her career, she sang the role of the Countess 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.

They say that Maria Callas, after she retired in the sixties, even owing to the Greek origins they shared, made Souliotis her operatic heiress.

Elena Souliotis died of heart failure in 2004 in FlorenceItaly, aged 61.

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