Soprano Leontyne Price was nothing short of spectacular Wednesday night at the Kennedy Center. Her ample voice was keenly tuned, giving the adoring standing-room-only crowd real reason to shriek with delight. While other singers may fade, Price seems to get more majestic with time.
The concert opened typically enough with works by Handel. Sung with a full-bodied, resonant tone, these baroque selections were merely warmups for a grand collection of songs and arias.
Five works of Joseph Marx encapsulated Price's best and most characteristic features -- the sweeping melismata, the dark and hollow low notes, the clearly focused upper registers and, perhaps most of all, her ability to turn short phrases into high drama.
Two Puccini arias -- "Vissi d'arte" from "Tosca" and "La Canzone di Doretta" from "La Rondine" -- might well have been saved for encores at other Price recitals, but Wednesday night she offered one on either side of intermission, tearing the house down with each.
A French sampler was impressive for Price's colors and handsome modulations. Henri Duparc's fine "Ele'gie" was sensitively accented, restrained and perfectly judged for dynamic impact. Works by Alfred Bachelet, Gabriel Dupont and Alexandre Georges were equally supple. Samuel Barber's cycle "Despite and Still" was powerfully expressive and penetrating. Longtime accompanist David Garvey offered excellent support throughout the evening.