Musing on Maria

callas27Marias seem to polarize the opera world.  Ewing of that ilk still generates more search term hits around here than even Calixto Bieito. In her day Malibran was the Maria of note and controversy and more recently, of course, we have Callas.  Callas was a bit before my time and it’s only really recently that I’ve listened to her much.  It started, ironically, with the Pasolini Medea where she doesn’t sing but does radiate a most compelling presence.  So, when Presto had the complete EMI recordings on sale for something like $20 I took the plunge and 7+ hours MC on CD duly arrived.  Just looking at the leaflet blew my mind.  She recorded everything from Rosina to Turandot and sang monster roles at an age when, today, she’d most likely still be in a YAP.  I have to say it’s a really mixed bag.  There’s some gorgeous singing.  The Casta diva in this box set is exquisite.  There’s also stuff that’s almost unbearable to listen to.  Overall though I was still really wondering what all the fuss was about.  So I got hold of a couple of documentary DVDs on Callas that included some footage of her on stage; concert rather than opera.  There seems to be virtually no video record of her actual opera performances.  It makes a huge difference.  It’s not like she does much in the way of acting but there’s something, like in the Medea, utterly compelling.  She’s still polarizing.  My partner likened her voice to scratching on a chalkboard and the cats seem to agree.  I was even asked this morning if the “Callas marathon” was over yet.  I think the investigation may be continued but tact may be required.  Also, am I completely nuts in noticing a certain similarity of timbre between Callas and Sondra Radvanovsky?  It’s hard to be sure comparing 50 year old recordings with my memory of a singer I’ve only seen live.

7 thoughts on “Musing on Maria

  1. Did you see her second act of Tosca? Two versions in existence.. They give an indication of how magnetic she was.

      • The two DVDs I have with filmings of two different complete 2nd acts of Tosca are:
        Maria Callas at Covent Garden 1962 and 1964 with Tito Gobbi EMI Classics and
        Maria Callas Toujours Paris 1958 also with Gobbi as Scarpia also EMI Classics and with a haunting Miserere from Trovatore
        You need to see them. For dramatic intensity nothing touches them.

  2. I had a similar “what was all the fuss about?” reaction the first time I heard audio of her singing. I’m still not entirely convinced the level of fuss is justified – but I’ve never seen video of her on stage, either. Also, she’s so mingled in my head with people making tiresome “there are no REALLY good singers any more” arguments that I think my distaste for the latter colors my level of appreciation for the former.

    • Yes. It’s so refreshing when someone who has bween around a while is positive about a “new” singer, like the guy in the Met shop who said that the Goerkinator was the biggest voice he’d heard in the house since Nilsson.

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