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Maria Callas - The Callas Conversations II: L’invitée du dimanche
Television interview 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 CLASSICS 3884579 [95:00]

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. Callas is the 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.
Kevin Sutton


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July 2022

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June 2022

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