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Maria Callas - The Callas Conversations II: L’invitée
filmed on 20 April 1969 at ORTF, Paris. Host: Pierre Desgraupes.
Guests include Elvira de Hidalgo, Francesco Siciliani and Luchino Visconti.
Arias by Puccini, Verdi and Rossini. Bonus features include a 1964 interview
with Bernard Gavoty and rehearsal footage from the Paris Opera from May of 1964.
EMI continue to
make money from the Maria Callas legend with this series of
DVDs called “The Callas Conversations” (Part I - EMI 90574). The
main feature is a television interview from 1969 where Ms.
guest on the program L’invitée du dimanche, or “The
Sunday Guest”. Whether or not you’re a fan of Callas, you can
hardly help but find her interesting. These interviews prove
that she was every bit the thoughtful artist in conversation
that she was on stage.
A broad range of
topics are covered here, ranging from her early studies to
her thoughts on perfectionism and hard work. There are also
the obligatory defenses against her reputation for being nasty
and difficult to work with. I found that when Ms. Callas was
speaking - in French with subtitles available in several languages
- I was rapt with attention. Regrettably, the other guests,
even her teacher Elvira de Hidalgo, were so effusive in their
flattery that the whole affair became tiresomely sycophantic.
To her credit, Callas remains modest and grateful throughout
the sixty-plus minute interview, always bringing the conversation
back to her devotion to art and the enormous responsibility
she feels toward her fans and to the music itself. On more
than one occasion she laments that an artist, having reached
her level of fame is also subject to the public’s inflated
and unforgiving expectations.
Regardless of your
opinion of Maria Callas’s singing, there is no choice but to
admire the woman’s poise, intellect and eloquence. She is radiant
in spite of all her complaints of insecurity and vulnerability.
We could only wish that Ms. Callas were given the opportunity
to have a real conversation about music, life, art or whatever
struck her fancy without incessant sucking-up by the other
chain-smoking and frankly rather uninteresting guests.
The musical excerpts
are now practically sacred and include three rather flawless
performances from the 1950s. To fully appreciate Maria Callas
is to watch her, and these riveting film clips make you forget
anything negative you ever thought about her singing. Of particular
merit is the passionate Vissi d’arte from Puccini’s Tosca.
The two bonus tracks
are interesting, but a bit redundant. The interview with Bernard
Gavoty is Callas saying the same things she said in the longer
program, just five years earlier. The rehearsal excerpts are
so brief that they will be of little interest to anyone except
the most complete-ist of fans.
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