I won't go over old ground too much regarding the blazing brevity of Souliotis's career as a spinto soprano other than to remark that these recordings were made between 1965 and 1966, only a couple of years after her début while she was still in her early twenties and while she had virtually everything to delight an audience: the voice, dramatic intensity as an actress, looks,temperament and novelty. She was essentially finished by the early seventies, making a comeback after a break as a mezzo-soprano and singing until the year 2000, even making a final recording as la Zia Principessa in the early 90's, but of course her reputation rests on that decade when she was spoken of in the same breath as Callas and Gencer.
Both the latter made a speciality of Anna Bolena, and the twenty minute final forms the centrepiece of this Eloquence recital compilation but good as it is I don't think it best illustrates her gifts and would instead cite the opening track as representing the best of this enormously exciting singer. For one thing, although she had huge amplitude, ethereally floated top notes, a Callas-style portamento and ripe lower register, excellent intonation, the ability to colour and vary her tone, she lacked a proper trill which Donizetti demands and it seems to me that temperamentally Abigaille is more up her street. Certainly hers ranks alongside the recordings of Callas and Dimitrova for sheer thrills; she simply dominates the fiendishly difficult tessitura and wide emotional range. The same can almost be said of her Lady Macbeth and in truth I don't think anyone except she and Sylvia Sass come as close to Callas's definitive delivery of the Lady's arias, but Callas still reigns supreme.
Otherwise, she launches herself into portraying those Verdi, Mascagni and Ponchielli girls with reckless abandon while still remaining in technical control. She makes Luisa a feistier character than most, especially Ricciarelli and Caballé, whose take on her is much more limp and yielding, beautiful as they are,and brings an intensity to Santuzza that certainly calls to mind the artists with whom she was constantly compared, the aforementioned Callas and Gencer. There is a plaintive quality to her voice, too, which those great ladies lacked. Of course it is the almost shocking forays into her rich lower register which are so memorable: Santuzza's "Io piango" and Gioconda's "Fra le tenebre" and "dentro l'avel" towards the end of her aria.
Nothing here is less than very good and I should mention the quality of the orchestral accompaniments from three renowned conductors; Varviso and the Rome Orchestra are especially impressive.