Thursday, December 27, 2012

Callas - We all have stories

What a wonderful tribute! I am with you about Callas and cannot resist
joining you because I have a personal story as well. My first opera record
was a 78 rpm disc with Maria Callas singing "Addio del passato" on one side
and her "Suicidio!" on another. I got it from my mom when I was about 6-7
years old. At that tender age, I certainly did not understand what exactly
drew me to it, but for the first time I heard someone singing a "song" (in
a child's vocabulary) behind which I sensed there was a "story" I wanted to
know more about. Had it not been for Callas' voice, in all its vocal
beauty, dramatic projection, and human frailty, it would not have opened up
this entire new world for me. That's how I instinctively fell in love with
opera. I played this record over and over again until it became practically
unlistenable by the time I was in my early teens. That long lost 78 rpm
disc was my introduction to opera and I wish I knew where I could find it
because I think it would still be my favorite after all these years.

For me, Callas brought uniqueness like no other to Violetta, Norma, Medea,
Gioconda, and Elvira (PURITANI). For a long time she was also my definitive
Lady Macbeth until I heard Rysanek (studio) and Verrett ('75 La Scala
live). The same goes with her Lucia, Anna Bolena, Amina, Rosina, Tosca,
Aida ('51)… right there in the pantheon with very few others.

That said, there is one of her complete recordings that I do *not* like -
her '64 Carmen. Her voice is a shadow of its past and her characterization
eludes me. Is her Carmen a bewitching seductress, a charming coquette, or a
free-spirited woman? I sense all three at different points with a somewhat
bland result. Perhaps an artificial studio atmosphere should be blamed…
Though I am always open to re-listen, rediscover, and perhaps change my

Buffalo, NY

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