Maria Callas (1923 - 1977)
Her Best Recordings in Good Sound

 


VRCS Annual CDs FOR SALE!

OPERA ON THE INTERNET (HOME) | LIST OF OPERA STATIONS | OPERA TABLE SCHEDULE PAGES:THIS SATURDAY | THIS SUNDAY | THIS WEEK : MONDAY | TUESDAY | WEDNESDAY | THURSDAY | FRIDAY
NEXT SATURDAY | NEXT SUNDAY | NEXT WEEK - MONDAY TO FRIDAY

The Assoluta Voice in Opera, 1797 - 1847 NEW BOOK

OperaBlog

A FEW REFLECTIONS

BAYREUTH BROADCASTS 2003 INTERNET RADIO FOR SIMPLETONS | INTERNET RADIO FOR TECHIES

THE COLLECTOR'S GUIDE TO OPERA RECORDINGS & VIDEOS | REVIEWS: BY OPERA TITLE BY COMPOSER THE COLLECTOR'S GUIDE TO BOOKS ON OPERA | FAVORITE OPERA LINKS

SIGN OUR GUESTBOOK | VIEW GUESTBOOK
DOWNLOADS:

REAL AUDIO (Get the FREE Version - we recommend RP Version 8 - you can download it here) | WINDOWS MEDIA PLAYER | WINAMP (MP3 Player) (Preferred Version 5.09 may be downloaded here) | QUICKTIME PLAYER | CHAINCAST PLAYER

 

MARIA CALLAS (1923 - 1977) -- HER BEST RECORDINGS IN GOOD SOUND

-- Geoffrey Riggs

 

[poster #1] wrote:

On Tue, 5 Aug 2003 07:00:08 +0100, [poster #2] wrote:

What about the best recording of Callas (in a complete opera) live or not? I love her in Norma with Serafin, Corelli and Christa Ludwig and find it hard to believe the booklet in the CD that said that she was no longer at her best. The sound quality is excellent in this. But another, earlier recording (can't remember which one)of her, which I listened to in a record shop, had such poor sound quality that I couldn't ignore the hissing tinnyness. So which one, in your opinion, gives good sound quality and good singing.

[poster #1] Best? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

The '53 Tosca with de Sabata (and di Stefano and Gobbi) - maybe the best anything ever. For Normas, there are two live ones from 1955 - I'll probably prefer the Milano one over the one from Rome.

[Geof. Riggs] Not only would I certainly agree that the Milano one (Dec. 7th of that year) is the best Norma in terms of Callas herself, I truly feel that that "live" Milano Norma is the finest example of Callas's artistry anywhere on disc! Sometimes overlooked is Callas's consistently successful collaborations with the producer/director of that production, Margherita Wallmann. Wallmann also directs the Bernstein Medea (from Dec. '53) and the Gavazzeni Ballo in maschera (Dec. '57), both performances where Callas's singing radiates similar confidence. I don't regard that as a coincidence, and I look on a proper study of Wallmann's directing style as long overdue.

Unfortunately, though Callas is certainly at her peak in the Wallmann Norma, this performance is not the best-recorded example of her peak singing, and [poster #2] asked for the best-recorded example of her artistry -- when at her best. That Wallmann Norma is reasonably listenable, IMO -- certainly faaaaar more listenable than either of the Visconti Traviatas or some of the Mexico material or the Nabucco (goodness knows) or any one of a number of other really poor issues -- but there is still one bad patch of static in this Norma right as Norma is poised to slay her children in Act II, Scene 1.

Even though Callas tends not to be quite so energized in the studio as on stage, most of the stage documents -- at least during her prime -- tend not to be in as good sound as the studio products. This means that, if one wants her in state-of-the-art-sound and in prime voice, one has to choose among the studio recordings made during her prime. In addition, one (sometimes) has to do a balancing act between her peak form and adequate sound. In the following summary, I have numbered in sequence, from #1. on, those studio sets I consider the best amalgam of responsible engineering and consistently assured singing. Letters A to D represent her chief vocal phases throughout her career.

A) Her voice is at its fullest and most powerful, though not -- quite -- its most immacculately controlled, from 1947 (still the 78 era) to the first half of 1953 (early LP era and still mono). There are few documents from this phase that are really well-engineered, IMO.

1. The few exceptions include an EMI Lucia, made in Feb. '53, opposite Di Stefano and Gobbi, with Serafin conducting.

2. There is also her EMI Puritani, made in March '53, also w/Di Stefano. This probably gives the best-recorded sound picture available of the Callas voice during this period, IMO. Even here, though, the high-lying phrases closing Act I are too closely miked, and there is some distortion.

B) Then the voice gets thinner but gains in focus, legato, flexibility and diction while being (occasionally) unsure on top, though not always, from the second half of '53 (early LP/mono period) to the first half of '56 (still LP/mono). Although less consistent than in A), she is, when at her best here, a greater singer, IMO, than earlier. Thus, there are, IMO, both poorer examples of her singing here than earlier and certain ones that are somewhat greater as well. A prime example of the latter is her Autumn '55 Lucia when compared to her Feb. '53 recording. Yes, her tone is fuller in Feb. '53, but her control over pitch, flexibility, breath, diction, so much more, is surprisingly better in Autumn '55. And yet her Feb. '53 recording is already quite fine! At the same time, her "live" '51 Aida is preferable in most ways, IMO, to her Serafin Aida from '55, even though the latter is better recorded. So you never can tell.

There is such an up/down pattern to her singing now that mini-phases occur within the general one.

During the '53/54 season, the voice gets slimmer -- somewhat -- as she herself starts losing considerable weight during a drastic dieting regime. But while the voice is getting slimmer, the control grows more astonishing than ever. And it's still essentially a dramatic soprano sound when fully extended.

3. It's from this season (mid-August, '53) that we have the classic De Sabata Tosca made for EMI that [poster #1] cites here.

4. Almost as good, IMO, is her EMI Cavalleria/Pagliacci made during the same season. She herself is somewhat stronger in the Cavalleria, but I now find the Pagliacci (she never did Nedda on stage), as a totality, the most satisfying Pagliacci in the catalogue, not least because of Di Stefano's surprisingly strong Canio (he wasn't really the spinto the role needs, yet he copes admirably, IMO), Gobbi's indelible Tonio and Serafin's superb leadership. (Real stars like Panerai and Monti in the smaller roles certainly don't hurt!) This is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts -- and its parts are hardly bad.

A highlight among her "live" Scala broadcasts also comes from this season: a blazing Medea in December, conducted by Leonard Bernstein and directed by Margherita Wallmann. Callas is untiring, fearless and inspired here, displaying the utmost control throughout an arduous evening. As this performance makes clear, she is still an authentic dramatic soprano at this point. However, as "live" recordings go, though the sound is hardly bad here, it does not entirely compete with any of the studio products from EMI (what with a spot of distortion at the conclusion of Act II, and so on).

5. [poster #2] might also be interested in the earlier EMI Norma that, like the Pagliacci, comes from the tail end of this season. If [poster #2] enjoys the Corelli/EMI Norma, s/he should be truly enthralled with Callas here, where Callas is in much better voice. No, Callas does not plumb the depths of the Wallmann Norma, but her singing is considerably surer than in the set [poster #2] already enjoys, and I find her interpretation just as exciting in its way as in the EMI/Corelli set, despite the fact that no interpretation is as all-encompassing as that heard with Wallmann. [poster #2] should also be aware that the Pollione on this '54 EMI Norma is not as satisfying as Corelli in the stereo set.

 

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | Next Page

 

CARMEN -- FROM COMEDY TO TRAGEDY

ENRICO CARUSO (1873 - 1921) -- A BRIEF APPRECIATION

FRANCO CORELLI (1921 - 2003) -- RECOLLECTIONS AND REFLECTIONS

DON CARLOS -- RANDOM JOTTINGS

DONIZETTI AND BRINKMANSHIP

GREATEST SINGER?

THE TENOR AND RICHARD WAGNER (1813 - 1883)

MEISTERSINGER ON DISC -- THE STRONGEST ENTRIES

RECALLING ROBERT MERRILL (1917 - 2004)

PARSIFAL ON DISC -- THE STRONGEST ENTRIES

HISTORY OF OPERA IN MINIATURE

RICHARD TAUBER (1891 - 1948) -- A BRIEF APPRECIATION

VIOLETTA IN LA TRAVIATA

PARTIAL OVERVIEW OF TRISTAN ON CD

IL TROVATORE ON DISC -- THE STRONGEST ENTRIES

UPCOMING SINGERS

 

OPERA ON THE INTERNET (HOME) | LIST OF OPERA STATIONS | OPERA TABLE SCHEDULE PAGES: THIS SATURDAY | THIS SUNDAY | THIS WEEK : MONDAY | TUESDAY | WEDNESDAY | THURSDAY | FRIDAY
NEXT SATURDAY | NEXT SUNDAY | NEXT WEEK - MONDAY TO FRIDAY

The Assoluta Voice in Opera, 1797 - 1847 NEW BOOK

OperaBlog

BAYREUTH BROADCASTS 2003 INTERNET RADIO FOR SIMPLETONS | INTERNET RADIO FOR TECHIES

THE COLLECTOR'S GUIDE TO OPERA RECORDINGS & VIDEOS | REVIEWS: BY OPERA TITLE BY COMPOSER THE COLLECTOR'S GUIDE TO BOOKS ON OPERA | FAVORITE OPERA LINKS

SIGN OUR GUESTBOOK | VIEW GUESTBOOK
DOWNLOADS:

REAL AUDIO (Get the FREE Version - we recommend RP Version 8 - you can download it here) | WINDOWS MEDIA PLAYER | WINAMP (MP3 Player) (Preferred Version 5.09 may be downloaded here) | QUICKTIME PLAYER | CHAINCAST PLAYER

 

We welcome any and all comments and suggestions. Contact us at admin@operacast.com or leave your comments and questions in our guest book.

This page last revised 8/17/10 2:42 PM EST

Copyright ©2003 - 2008 G. S. Riggs & E. H. Riggs