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Maria Callas - The Studio Recitals
Disc 1 Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Arias [45.14]
Manon Lescaut, In quelle trine morbide [2:56]. Sola, perduta, abbandonata [5:53]
Madama Butterfly, Un bel dì vedremo [
4:34]. Con onor muore [3:44]
La Bohème, Sì. Mi chiamano Mimì [4:48]. Donde lieta uscì (Mimì's Farewell) [3:22]
Suor Angelica, Senza mamma, O bimbo [5:35]
Gianni Schicchi, O mio babbino caro [2:34]
Turandot, Signore, ascolta!
[2:30] In questa Reggia [6:24] Tu, che di gel sei cinta [2:50]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Tullio Serafin
rec. September 1954.
Watford Town Hall
Disc 2 Lyric and Coloratura Arias [49.00]
Adriana Lecouvreur, Ecco: respiro appena...Io son l'umile ancella [
3:49]; Poveri fiori [3.12]
Andrea Chenier, La mamma morta [4.52]
La Wally, Ebben?...Ne andrò lontana [4.52]
Mefistofele, L'altra notte. [
7:28]
Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Una voce poco fa [
6:52]
Dinorah, Ombre légère (Shadow Song) [
5:42]
Lakmé, Où va la jeune indoue (Bell Song) [8:06]
I vespri Siciliani, Mercè, dilette amiche (Bolero) [
4:20]
rec. September 1954,
Watford Town Hall.
Philharmonia Orchestra/Tullio Serafin
Disc 3 Callas at La Scala.
[41:50]
Medea, Dei tuoi figli la madre [4:46]
La Vestale, Tu che invoco [10:50]. O nome tutelary [2:30].
Caro oggetto [3:44]
La Sonnambula, Compagne, temiri amici ....Come per me sereno [
5:43]. Oh, se una volta sola ....Ah! non credea mirarti [13:58]
rec. July 1955. La Scala,
Milan
Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala/Tulio Serafin
Disc 4
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Arias. Volume 1 [49.14]
Macbeth, Nel dì della vittoria ..Vienil t'affretta [7:44]; La luce langue [4:07]; Una macchia è qui tuttora [11:90]
Nabucco, Ben io t'invenni ... Anch'io dischiuso un giorno [9:06]
Ernani, Surta è la notte .... Ernani!
Ernani, involami [6:11]
Don Carlo, Tu che le vanità [
10:36]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Nicola Rescigno
rec.
September 1958. Studio 1, Abbey Road, London
Disc 5 Mad Scenes. [47.23]
Anna Bolena, Piangete voi?...Al dolce guidami castel natio
19:57
Hamlet, A vos jeux mes amis (Mad Scene)
[10:23]
Il Pirata, Oh! s'io potessi
[17:20]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Nicola Rescigno
rec. September 1958, Kingsway Hall,
London,
Disc 6 Callas à
Paris. Volume 1 [49.08]
Orphée et Eurydice, J'ai perdu mon Eurydice [4:25]
Alceste, Divinités du Styx [4:24]
Carmen, L'amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera) [4:30]; Près des remparts de Séville (Séguidilla) [2:40]
Samson et Dalila, Printemps qui commence [5:14]; Samson, recherchant ma présence...Amour! viens aider ma faiblesse! [
4:10]; Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix. [5:15]
Roméo et Juliette, 'Romeo and Juliet': Je veux vivre (Waltz) [
3:38]
Mignon, Ah, pour ce soir...Je suis Titania (Polonaise) [5:08]
Le Cid, De cet affreux combat....Pleurez, mes yeux [6:50]
Louise, Depuis le jour où je me suis donnée [4:39]
Orchestra National de la Radiofusion Francaise/Georges Prêtre
rec. March, April 1961, Salle Wagram, Paris
Disc 7 Callas à Paris. Volume 2 [43.04]
Iphigénie en Tauride, O malheureuse Iphigénie! [
4:30]
La Damnation de Faust Op. 24, D'amour l'ardente flamme [8:80];
Les Pêcheurs de Perles, 'The Pearl Fishers': Ma voila seule......Comme autrefois [
5:56]
Manon, Je ne suis que faiblesse....Adieu, notre petite table [
3:16]
Manon, Suis-je gentille ainsi? ... Je
marche sur tous les chemins [2:49]
Werther, Werther! Qui m'aurait dit la place... Des cris joyeux (Air des lettres) [
6:59]
Faust, Il était un Roi de Thulé...O Dieu!que de bijoux...Ah! je ris (Jewel Song) [
11:24]
Orchestra National de la Radiofusion Française/Georges Prêtre.
Rec. April 1963, Salle Wagram, Paris
Disc 8
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901); Arias. Volume 2 [39.53]
Otello, Mia madre aveva una povera ancella [5:60]; Piangea cantando (Willow Song) [7:12]; Ave Maria [4:45]
Aroldo: Ciel, ch'io respiri!...Salvami, salvami tu gran dio [3:26]; Oh cielo! Ove son io? [9:40]
Don Carlo, Non pianger, mia compagna [4:52]; O don fatale [4:41]
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire/Nicola Rescigno;
rec. December 1963, February 1964, Salle Wagram, Paris,
Disc 9 Carl Maria van Weber (1770-1827); Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827); Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Ah! perfido Op. 65 [14:18]
Oberon, Ocean! thou mighty monster [9:30]
Le Nozze di Figaro K492, Porgi, amor [4:14]
Don Giovanni K527, Or sai chi l'onore [3:14]; Non mir dir [6:52]; In quali eccessi, O Numi!...Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata [6:26]
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire/Nicola Rescigno;
rec. December 1963, February 1964, Salle Wagram, Paris
Disc 10 Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868); Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) Arias
La Cenerentola, Nacqui all'affanno e al pianto .....Non più mesta [6:18]
Guglielmo Tell, S'allontanano alfin!" [8:32]
Semiramide, Bel raggio lusinghier [8:34]
La figlia del reggimento, Convien partir [4:50]
Lucrezia Borgia, Tranquillo di posa...Com'è bello [8:15]
L'Elisir d'amor, Prendi, per me sei libero (Atto 2) [3:33]
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire/Nicola Rescigno;
rec. December, 1963, April 1964, Salle Wagram, Paris
Disc 11 Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Arias. Volume 3 [52.07]
I Lombardi alla prima crociata, O Madre dal ciel soccorri [3:59]
Attila, Liberamente or piangi ... Oh! nel fuggente nuvolo [5:24]
Il Corsaro, [Egli non riede ancora! ... Non so le tetre immagini (Atto I) from [5:16]; Nè sulla terra creatura alcuna ... talor del carcere ... Verró ... Ah conforto sol la speme [5:57]
Il Trovatore, Tacea la notte placida ... Di tale amor [6:07]
I vespri Siciliani, Arrigo! Ah, parli a un core [4:32]
Un Ballo in Maschera, Ecco l'orrido campo .Ma dall'arido stelo [9:16]; Morrò, ma prima in grazia [4:26]
Aida, Ritorna vincitor [7:06]
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire; Orchestre du Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris (trs. 3-4)/Nicola Rescigno
rec.
January, February, April 1964, April 1965, February, March 1969
Disc 12 The EMI Rarities 1953-1961. [63.28]
Don Giovanni K527, Non mi dir [5:26]; Non mi dir [5:40];
Macbeth, Una macchia è qui tuttora! [11:12]
Semiramide: Bel raggio lusinghier [5:34]; Bel raggio lusinghier [5:22]
I vespri Siciliani, Arrigo! Ah, parli a un core [4:40]
Lucrezia Borgia, Tranquillo di posa...Com'è bello [8:30]
Guglielmo Tell, S'allontanano alfine ... Selva opaca [8:50]
Il Pirata, Sorgete ... Lo sognai ferito, esangue [9:23]
Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Tullio Serafin; Philharmonia Orchestra/Antonio Tonini
rec. January 1953, Teatro Comunale, Florence; September 1953, Abbey Road, London, November 1961, Kingsway Hall, London

Disc 13 The EMI Rarities 1962-1969. [51.08]
Don Carlo, O don fatale [4:27]
La Cenerentola, Nacqui all'affanno e al pianto ..... Non più mesta [6:11]
Oberon, Ocean! thou mighty monster [8:20]
Aida, Pur ti riveggo, mia dolce Aida [9:32]
I Lombardi alla prima crociata, Te, Vergin santa [3:46]; Te, Vergin santa [3:21]
Il Trovatore, Vanne ... D'amor sull' ali rosee [6:27]
I vespri Siciliani, Arrigo! Ah, parli a un core [3:38]
Attila, Liberamente or piangi ... Oh! nel fuggente nuvolo [4:55]
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire/Nicola Rescigno
rec. February, March 1969, Salle Wagram, Paris.
Mono/Stereo. ADD
EMI CLASSICS 00946 368033 2 6 [13 CDs: 45:14 + 49:00 + 41:50 + 49:14 + 47:23 + 49:08 + 43:04 + 39:53 + 44:23 + 39:22 + 52:07 + 63:28 + 51:08]

 


Maria Callas (1923-1977) was born in America of Greek parents. She was reputed to have sung Un bel di from Madam Butterfly in public at the age of 11. She left America in 1937 and travelled to Greece for voice training and performed her first roles there including Tosca, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) and Leonore (Fidelio). These all tend towards the spinto end of the soprano fach and yet she was scarcely 20 years of age. Maria returned to America in 1945 and rejected a New York Met offer to sing Butterfly in English whilst a Chicago offer of Turandot fell through. Her major European debut was as the eponymous Gioconda in the massive Verona Arena in 1947 when she was 23 years of age. The following year Callas sang Turandot in five Italian cities and also Aida and Norma. She soon added the Die Walküre Brünnhilde, Isolde, Kundry and Elvira (I Puritani) to her repertoire. These are very big-voiced roles for a woman scarcely past her 25th year. Present day voice training conservatories, in whatever country, scarcely let any graduates out to compete in the operatic world by that age let alone tackle such heavy and diverse roles. Of course maturity, vocally and otherwise, occurs at different ages and maybe Callas was exceptional in her vocal anatomy. Physically she was certainly not the svelte figured society woman who made the front pages of the Italian and other journals as well as the arts pages a few years later. She was distinctly podgy when she re-invented herself as a coloratura soprano and moved fach to incorporate Verdi’s Violetta, Cherubini’s Medea and works by Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini with a little Puccini thrown in. 

In a period when coloratura technique seemed lost, Callas’s was much admired. Over fifty years later with many singers with which to compare her coloratura skills, hers can be faulted in many respects, not least technical as well as interpretive. An example is her singing of Lakmé’s Bell Song (CD 2 tr. 8), much admired at the time of its issue. It now seems thin and wiry with Callas’s coloratura lacking tonal body and flexibility. The lower pitched Una voce poca fa (CD 2 tr.9), recorded the year before her La Scala performances, which were only moderately received, is significantly more technically adroit and with her characterisation showing Rosina’s viperish persona. The first two CDs were made at the same series of sessions in September 1954. It would be interesting to know the sequence, as there is considerable variation in the quality of her singing. She would surely not have recorded In Questa Regia (CD 1 tr.10), which is not an easy listen, between Liu’s two poignant arias from the opera (CD 2 trs. 9 and 11) in which she consummately expresses the emotions of the words. Other highlights from these first recording sessions include Ebben from Catalani’s Le Wally, a role she never recorded (CD 2 tr. 3) and the lovely concluding note of Donde lieta usci from act 3 of La Boheme and which follows an unconvincing Si, Mi chiamano Mimi from the same opera (CD 2 trs 6 and 5). Callas’s singing of L’Altra notte from Boito’s Mefistofele is variable with the voice becoming unsteady (CD 2 tr. 6), as is her ending of Suor Angelica’s Senza Mama (CD 2 tr. 7). The outcome of these first sessions in 1954 is something of a mixed blessing; a statement that is true of the whole series. None is completely duff, but as illness and a fraught social life, not to forget diva tantrums, took hold, the mediocre and some frankly squally singing, overtakes the inspirational and insightful performances. 

The contrasting reactions that Callas’s name brings to the minds of opera-lovers can also be experienced in some of her later recording sessions not least those in Paris (CDs 6 and 7). As her stage performances grew less frequent, the converse was true of her stage and studio recitals. But even then there was no disguising the vocal decline. Although only two years separate the two Paris sessions, the decline is painfully obvious. Despite that, Callas’s musicality and innate sense of theatrical artistry shine through, sometimes in unexpected ways. Her Habañera and Seguidille from Carmen (CD 6 trs. 3-4), whilst having a raw quality, are full of insights into the role’s character, one she never sang on stage. Delilah’s Printemps qui commence and Mon Coeur s’ouvre (CD 6 trs 5 and 7) point to a fach she never investigated on stage. Her attempt at Depuis la jour (tr. 11) reflects the state of her soprano compared with ten years earlier. Compared to many successors for whom the aria is a calling card, Callas’s singing is neither beautiful, nor insightful nor inspired. 

In these recital discs made between 1954 and 1963 there are gems to be found between the less worthy offerings. Among the former is CD 3 entitled Callas at La Scala and recorded at that venue in June of the year she was dubbed Queen of La Scala, appearing in no fewer that five productions. Her singing of Lady Macbeth’s act 2 and act 4 arias (CD 4 trs 1-3) and Abigaille’s Ben io t’avenni (Tr. 4) from Nabucco make one regret the lack of any studio recording of her in those roles, whist the Anna Bolena and Il Pirata ‘Mad Scenes’ (CD 5 trs. 1 and 3) recorded in September 1958 at different London venues, with dramatic intensity, do likewise. CD 10, titled Rossini and Donizetti Arias, recorded in Paris in December 1963 and April 1964 have enough indication of what might have been had Callas started and remained with this fach rather than with the heaviest Italian and German dramatic repertoire. The belated release, up to ten years after the recording sessions, of volume 3 of Verdi arias (CD 11 and part of CD 12) perhaps indicated a recognition of the presence of more vocally appealing voices on the scene, albeit that few brought Callas’s interpretative insights to their singing. One who did was Montserrat Caballé whose LP of Verdi Rarities had its own considerable strengths and is now available on CD. 

These recital collections were first issued on LP and are now presented in the format and short timings of the genre. They come in well-presented cardboard sleeves in a sturdy fold-over box. The set allows many aspects of Callas’s recorded studio work to be examined in detail.

Robert J Farr 

see also Review by Göran Forsling



 


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