Reaction to the voice and art of Callas has always been very personal.
Her voice was certainly unlike any that came before or after her. There are
those for whom Callas could/can do no wrong. Did she have a perfect vocal
emission?Certainly not. Did she sing virtually every role equally successfully?
Probably not. Being a competent musician, but certainly not an expert, I
would suspect that people who dismiss Callas exclusively because of her voice
really don't know what she was about or what artistic ends she sought.
She tread an operatic path that no one before her dared to venture; she
had tons of color in her voice and could weight them in such a way where she
could in her prime years undertake the most diversified roles in Italian opera
(Turandot, Rosina, Violetta, Norma, Sonnambula, Lady Macbeth, Lucia, Anna
Bolena, Medea, etc.). Whether or not such "tomorrow-be-damned"
assumptions did her voice any good is not important. She's left a fabulous
legacy in sound, and I definitely feel that she left an imprint on every role she
ever sang. The Carmen is unimportant ---- as well as too late.
To listen to Callas while following a score is a unique experience. She was
meticulous in her execution of the music, and she, by the very nature of her
highly uniquely voice, musicianship, and musical instincts, was able to make
an operatic character become "alive" unlike any one else. Yes, there were
other great sopranos with superior voices, but none of them could elicit the
emotions and reactions that Callas did.
She was a great, great artist, and in the view of many possibly the
supreme operatic performer of all time. Still, Callas' undisputed and uncanny
gifts cannot make other sopranos chopped liver. Callas was Callas, and her
way inspired a lot of other sopranos, but was her way the ONLY way? I would
think not. In their respective ways, Nilsson, Price, Tebaldi, de los Angeles,
and Schwarzkopf created their own artistic profiles.
Callas' ability to create and generate publicity didn't hurt her either. She
was certainly the most famous operatic soprano of the last century. i doubt
whether there was a gossip column or tabloid that didn't report on her
She was an icon as as well as an iconic artist. She also benefitted from
having other great sopranos compared to her. Like her or not, Callas stands
alone and probably always will. She dared to be different and filled enough
opera houses in her lifetime where she didn't have to worry about those who
didn't like her. She'd have probably told them that if they didn't like her, they
should stay home.