Author Topic: Maria Callas  (Read 109146 times)

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Offline Valentino

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #20 on: May 12, 2007, 06:53:15 AM »
I don't have much, but maybe some of you know this one:

Bellini: Norma
Del Monaco, Modesti, Callas, Stignani, Cavallari, Cesarini
Orchestra sinfonica e Coro di Roma della Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI Roma SO and Chorus)
Serafin
Recorded live June 29th 1955.

The recorded sound is appalling, but Callas' voice is not.
We audiophiles don't really like music, but we sure love the sound it makes

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #21 on: May 12, 2007, 06:58:01 AM »
And really the sound on many of Callas's records is still pretty good. The 1953 Tosca is pretty incredible still and, in fact, more naturally recorded than many of its stereo and digital successors.

Really? the clips I have heard sound plain awful.

Explain me how you can make a more natural recording with a system with both linear and non-linear distortion, noise and limited dynamic range?

The only historical recordings I have ever bought are 2 CDs of Elgar conducting Elgar. I don't hear anything natural in the sound but plenty of distortion and noise.  ::)

I have these principles:

pre- 60's: Forget it, it's all mono noise.
60's: The best recordings are bearable. I have Elgar from this era.
70's: Analog tecnology gets perfected. The best recordings are very good.
80's: Beginning of digital era. Quality varies a lot.
90's: Engineers have learned digital technology. Quality is very good.
00's: Era of multichannel sound. The best recordings are absolutely stunning.
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #22 on: May 12, 2007, 07:03:01 AM »
Really? the clips I have heard sound plain awful.

Explain me how you can make a more natural recording with a system with both linear and non-linear distortion, noise and limited dynamic range?

The only historical recordings I have ever bought are 2 CDs of Elgar conducting Elgar. I don't hear anything natural in the sound but plenty of distortion and noise.  ::)

I have these principles:

pre- 60's: Forget it, it's all mono noise.
60's: The best recordings are bearable. I have Elgar from this era.
70's: Analog tecnology gets perfected. The best recordings are very good.
80's: Beginning of digital era. Quality varies a lot.
90's: Engineers have learned digital technology. Quality is very good.
00's: Era of multichannel sound. The best recordings are absolutely stunning.

Obviously we have different priorities. I know nothing about technical matters. I prefer to listen to music, rather than the sound it makes
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #23 on: May 12, 2007, 07:04:54 AM »
I don't have much, but maybe some of you know this one:

Bellini: Norma
Del Monaco, Modesti, Callas, Stignani, Cavallari, Cesarini
Orchestra sinfonica e Coro di Roma della Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI Roma SO and Chorus)
Serafin
Recorded live June 29th 1955.

The recorded sound is appalling, but Callas' voice is not.

It is another one of her best Nomas, but the La Scala I mentioned from the same year is better still.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline knight66

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #24 on: May 12, 2007, 07:12:55 AM »
TL, Thanks for your posts, I was wondering where you had got to. I agree, you need the libretto as that helps people to understand just how subtle her characterisations were. That direct communication, so much more than getting tastefully round the notes.

Mike
DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #25 on: May 12, 2007, 07:24:21 AM »
Obviously we have different priorities. I know nothing about technical matters. I prefer to listen to music, rather than the sound it makes

I am an acoustics engineer. I know a lot about "technical matters". The sound is the music. Of course you can hear the music even when the sound is bad but many nuances are lost/out of balance.
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #26 on: May 12, 2007, 07:29:23 AM »
I am an acoustics engineer. I know a lot about "technical matters". The sound is the music. Of course you can hear the music even when the sound is bad but many nuances are lost/out of balance.

Maybe that is so, but if I were to adhere to your principals, I would have to consign most of my large CD collection to the dustbin. If I did that, I would lose many great performances, to be left with many technically excellent, but musically soulless ones. I am happy to say my ears are evidently not so finely attuned as yours, and I can therefore still enjoy all the wonderful performances I have in my collection and will continure to do for many years to come.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 08:39:49 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

paul

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #27 on: May 12, 2007, 07:42:02 AM »
The only historical recordings I have ever bought are 2 CDs of Elgar conducting Elgar. I don't hear anything natural in the sound but plenty of distortion and noise.  ::)

I have many of the recordings of Elgar conducting his own works and playing the piano and I can't think of one of them that's in really bad, unlistenable sound. It's too bad you limit yourself to such a small period of recorded sounds as you're cheating yourself out of some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Plus, as an Elgar nut, why would you not want to listen to his 78 recordings, especially Yehudi Menuhin playing the VC?

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #28 on: May 12, 2007, 09:37:54 AM »
Maybe that is so, but if I were to adhere to your principals, I would have to consign most of my large CD collection to the dustbin. If I did that, I would lose many great performances, to be left with many technically excellent, but musically soulless ones. I am happy to say my ears are evidently not so finely attuned as yours, and I can therefore still enjoy all the wonderful performances I have in my collection and will continure to do for many years to come.

Luckily there are plenty of "modern" recordings. All Naxos CD are digital, same with CPO and MDG. So much classical music has been recorded during the last 20 years. Many less known composers are recorded only now. So, I don't feel myself that limited. It just would be cool to hear Callas sing Puccini in a new multichannel SACD recording.  ;)

I'd say about 5 % of my classical CDs are older than 30 years. The only mono recordings are the 2 Elgar discs.

Plus, as an Elgar nut, why would you not want to listen to his 78 recordings, especially Yehudi Menuhin playing the VC?

I have that VC on Naxos CD (8.110902) I also have Naxos 8.111022. That's all my historical recordings.
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #29 on: May 12, 2007, 10:06:44 AM »

 It just would be cool to hear Callas sing Puccini in a new multichannel SACD recording.  ;)



And my point is, that the fact that we can't, is not going to deprive me of listening to her art.
Incidentally, if she had been around today, she probably wouldn't have been offered a recording contract, her voice being notoriously difficult to record, and not what was considered conventionally beautiful. Nor was she the svelte, soignee, marketable figure she subsequently became. Fortunately, back in those days, careers were forged by what artists did on stage and not what they do in the recording studio.
I have been told by people in the recording business that small voices are much easier to record. This could account for the fact that, at present, we seem to be living in something of a golden age, when it comes to singers of early opera and baroque, but are suffering a dearth of great Verdi and Wagner singers.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 10:24:44 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #30 on: May 12, 2007, 01:13:18 PM »
Very informed and thoughtful posts, TS!

One of the most fortunate turns in Callas' carreer is her meeting with Tullio Serafin. He transformed the chrysalis into a spectacular butterfly (not the Cio-Cio San variety, the one with real wings ;)).

Unfortunately, there were bad encounters too, and I count that with Walter Legge among those. I've never understood the legend that surrounded his name. Technically, most of those 1950-1957 recordings are plain dreadful compared to what was achieved by the Decca or Philips engineers at the time - not to mention his stubborn refusal to experiment with stereo until the late fifties. Add to that what TS wrote about the dubious choice of recorded repertoire and you get a tragic artistic and technical misrepresentation of Callas' art on records.

Interestingly, it should be noted that when officially retired she went back to the studios (around 1969) to record some Verdi arias that showed the flame undiminished, with good sound, and the voice in much better shape than in 1964-1965 (her last commercial recordings). Her Ritorna vincitor is hair raisingly dramatic, shot through with incandescence (woe to the hated Egizie cohorti !)

Similarly, the Corsaro, Lombardi, Don Carlo (as Eboli !) and Aroldo arias are truly magical through her unique verbal gifts. The voice here is a bit looser, with noticeable difficulty in connecting the still working middle and low registers with the refractory top.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 01:19:56 PM by Lilas Pastia »

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #31 on: May 12, 2007, 02:39:39 PM »


Interestingly, it should be noted that when officially retired she went back to the studios (around 1969) to record some Verdi arias that showed the flame undiminished, with good sound, and the voice in much better shape than in 1964-1965 (her last commercial recordings). Her Ritorna vincitor is hair raisingly dramatic, shot through with incandescence (woe to the hated Egizie cohorti !)

Similarly, the Corsaro, Lombardi, Don Carlo (as Eboli !) and Aroldo arias are truly magical through her unique verbal gifts. The voice here is a bit looser, with noticeable difficulty in connecting the still working middle and low registers with the refractory top.

I hate to contradict you, but looking at the notes from EMI's recent Studio Recitals box set, you will find that actually very little of the 1969 sessions survived. The only arias to be issued from 1969 sessions are those from  Il Corsaro, plus retakes of Arrigo! Ah parli a un core from I Vespri Siciliani, Liberamente or piangi from Attila and Te, vergin santa from I Lombardi. In his book The Callas Legacy, John Ardoin relates how the sessions were fraught with problems, Callas being extremely nervous and proceding almost inch by inch. Those arias that were released were pieced together from several takes.

The Ritorna vincitor you are talking about was an impromptu take , made at the end of one of the 1964 sessions. The day hadn't gone particularly well and they were taking a break, during which Michel Glotz, the recording producer, played the aria sung by Regine Crespin. Callas became indignant, saying "this is not Verdi or Aida! I remember when I prepared this with Maestro Serafin he wanted such agitation that I would hardly get the words in; this is like a funeral march." She turned to Rescigno, the conductor, and said "Come on, Nicola, let's do it" and that's what they did. In one take! Whatever the reasons, that challenge certainly rekindled some of the old Callas fire, and paradoxically, her voice sounds as  secure as it did many years earlier. The Eboli aria and Aroldo arias are also from the 1964 sessions.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #32 on: May 12, 2007, 04:50:20 PM »
Thanks for the correction. Maybe I should open that big Membran box instead of relying on memory :D. I thought the aria was done around 1969, not 1964.

That Crespin-Callas tale is a well-known part of the Callas lore. Other instances feature her uncanny theatrical sense, to the point where she sometimes addressed the audience in her singing.

In a Medea performance that didn't go too well, there were murmurs and maybe even catcalls. At one crucial plot line, where she is supposed to address Giasone, she turned to the audience and uttered Medea's desperate plea "ho datto tutto a te" (I gave you everything I have).

In a Pirata performance, at the time where the Meneghinis were constantly clashing with La Scala's superintendant Ghiringelli, Calla-Imogene ostentatiously pointed at the superintendant's theater box and sang "La! Vedete, il palco funesto" ("There - look: the dreadful scaffold"). In the opera, the word palco refers to the scaffold where her lover will be hanged. But this italian word can also be used to designate a theater box. Although Ghiringelli was not in his box that night, the anecdote was widely circulated across Italy. She made news as no other opera star has ever done before or since.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 04:53:45 PM by Lilas Pastia »

Offline Valentino

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #33 on: May 12, 2007, 11:25:18 PM »
I have these principles:

pre- 60's: Forget it, it's all mono noise.
60's: The best recordings are bearable. I have Elgar from this era.
70's: Analog tecnology gets perfected. The best recordings are very good.
80's: Beginning of digital era. Quality varies a lot.
90's: Engineers have learned digital technology. Quality is very good.
00's: Era of multichannel sound. The best recordings are absolutely stunning.
Off topic now, but anyway:
pre- 60's: No Busch quartet, no Furtwagler, no Toscanini, no Flagstad for you then, not to mention Reiner's '54 stereo Zarathustra!
60's: Lots of great stereo recordings were made then, e.g. Walter Legge's for EMI.
70's: The best recordings are very good. Too many mikes by DG. The Karajan-effect. A strong will, a belief in technology, but lack of knowledge. The maestro got what he wanted.
80's: Quality varies a lot. Just like in the 60s and 70s. It's not the technology. It's the engineers. Early 80's Philips sounds marvellous.
90's: Variable quality still. From appalling to stunning.
00's: Era of multichannel sound. The best recordings are absolutely stunning, but so far not many of those: Very often too many microphones, and to "hot". "There's nothing I can't fix, I do it in the mix." Not.

Back to topic. TL, I'm utterly impressed. Thanks for sharing.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 11:32:50 PM by Valentino »
We audiophiles don't really like music, but we sure love the sound it makes

Offline knight66

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #34 on: May 13, 2007, 03:49:36 AM »
Getting the disc that prompted this thread, brought to me my first hearing of that 1964 Aida aria. It is magnificent and there is certainly defiance in it. What a shame she seemed not to be able to sustain that level of vocalism consistently by that stage. I agree that we have also missed out on some of her best roles, Lady M in the studio would have been a great addition. I will get round to that live version. I did hear a chunk of it on headphones in a shop and decided against; but perhaps headphones are the wrong medium in this instance.

Mike
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I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #35 on: May 13, 2007, 04:45:43 AM »
I agree that we have also missed out on some of her best roles, Lady M in the studio would have been a great addition. I will get round to that live version. I did hear a chunk of it on headphones in a shop and decided against; but perhaps headphones are the wrong medium in this instance.

Mike

I have to admit that the sound is not one of the best La Scala broadcasts, and certainly not up tp the standard of the Berlin Lucia, for instance. It is worth persevering, however, for the contributions of both Callas and Da Sabata. Callas is in sovereign voice here, and both Vieni t'affretta and la luce langue are sung with far more vocal freedom than on the 1959 EMI recordings. However, Da Sabata, takes the Sleepwalking Scene far too fast, and Callas is far less able to make her dramatic points. Rescigno gets it just right in the studio recording, and here she comes up with one of her psychologically most probing performances. I doubt I will ever hear a more searching version of this scene.
Incidentally, the lack of a studio Macbeth, with Callas, Gobbi, Di Stefano and Zaccaria; Da Sabata, Serafin or Karajan conducting is one which is continual cause for regret.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2007, 03:38:34 PM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #36 on: May 13, 2007, 04:50:07 AM »


One of the most fortunate turns in Callas' carreer is her meeting with Tullio Serafin. He transformed the chrysalis into a spectacular butterfly (not the Cio-Cio San variety, the one with real wings ;)).

This is indeed true. Callas always aknowledged the huge debt she owed to Serafin, who became almost like a father figure to her. She was a deal less charitable towards her husband, who also had a great influence on her early career, albeit in non musical matters.



« Last Edit: May 13, 2007, 05:12:44 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #37 on: May 13, 2007, 05:07:24 AM »

In a Medea performance that didn't go too well, there were murmurs and maybe even catcalls. At one crucial plot line, where she is supposed to address Giasone, she turned to the audience and uttered Medea's desperate plea "ho datto tutto a te" (I gave you everything I have).

In a Pirata performance, at the time where the Meneghinis were constantly clashing with La Scala's superintendant Ghiringelli, Calla-Imogene ostentatiously pointed at the superintendant's theater box and sang "La! Vedete, il palco funesto" ("There - look: the dreadful scaffold"). In the opera, the word palco refers to the scaffold where her lover will be hanged. But this italian word can also be used to designate a theater box. Although Ghiringelli was not in his box that night, the anecdote was widely circulated across Italy. She made news as no other opera star has ever done before or since.

LP

Another such incident that has passed into operatic folk lore now, is Callas's first performance in Italy after the scandal of her walking out half way through a performance of Norma, before the President of Italy, due to illness. It was at a revival of Anna Bolena at La Scala. Such was the bad feeling that the Italian press had whipped up against her, that La Scala, fearing an incident, had positioned plains clothes police all over the theatre, and riot police surrounded the theatre outside. Visconti re-directed some of the scenes so as to give Callas a certain amount of protection on stage in case of flying missiles from the audience. Throughout the first act the audience had reacted to her with icy coldness, loudly applauding her colleagues. By the finale of the First Act, Callas had had just about as much as she could stomach. This is the scene where Henry VIII finds her in compromising circumstances and tells the guards to take her to prison. Anna, utterly outraged, launches the exciting stretta to the finale with the words Giudice! Ad Anna! Giudice! (Judges! for Anna!). At this point, Callas pushed aside the guards, marched down to the footlights, and hurled the words into the audience, as much as to say "how dare you judge me", singing the rest of the scene with a scorching brilliance, incredible even for her. The audience were completely won over and from then to the end of the opera, she had them in the palm of her hands. Word of her success, apparently reached the crowds of people waiting outside the theatre, and, when she appeared at the stage door after the performance,the police found themselves having to restrain not an angry mob, but hordes of fans trying to besiege her with floral tributes. Unfortunately when she returned home that night, exhausted from her triumph, it was to find the gates of the Meneghini villa daubedwith dog excrement and the walls covered in insulting graffiti. And we wonder why her career was so short!
As an adjunct, it should be noted that Callas actually sued the Rome Opera for not having an understudy available on the night of that walk out, and for not fulfilling their subsequent contracyual obligations. The case dragged on for years, and eventually was settled totally in her favour. But it was too late. By then she was no longer singing, though the damage done to her personally and her career was immense and irrevocable.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2007, 05:13:23 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #38 on: May 13, 2007, 05:43:01 AM »
I can only imagine how her colleagues must have felt during that performance. How does talent react when confronted to genius? The objective fact is that her singing is not in cause, nor were her dramatic abilities befre that scene. But the sheer drama created by this unthinkable gesture was enough to instantly change the minds of over 2000 people. Compare Callas' reaction here to that of Alagna-Radames ::). Brava!


Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Maria Callas
« Reply #39 on: May 13, 2007, 11:19:32 AM »
Very informed and thoughtful posts, TS!

One of the most fortunate turns in Callas' carreer is her meeting with Tullio Serafin. He transformed the chrysalis into a spectacular butterfly (not the Cio-Cio San variety, the one with real wings ;)).

Unfortunately, there were bad encounters too, and I count that with Walter Legge among those. I've never understood the legend that surrounded his name. Technically, most of those 1950-1957 recordings are plain dreadful compared to what was achieved by the Decca or Philips engineers at the time - not to mention his stubborn refusal to experiment with stereo until the late fifties. Add to that what TS wrote about the dubious choice of recorded repertoire and you get a tragic artistic and technical misrepresentation of Callas' art on records.


Do you think that Legge was accidentally on purpose favoring his own wife over Callas? After all, he seemed to be pretty astute in showing off his own dear Elizabeth in recordings. The Karajan recording of Butterfly was shocking to me in that the orchestra almost completely drowns her out at times, especially in the beginning when she first appears. I'm wondering if such doings went unnoticed by Meneghini and HIS wife.

ZB
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