Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 358357 times)

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Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2560 on: June 06, 2021, 05:04:37 PM »

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2561 on: June 08, 2021, 12:07:12 AM »


The fifth in my collection of Callas Normas is also the first opera set I ever owned. Popuar opinion has it that the voice had deteriorated too much by 1960 and that, in all but matters of sound, the earlier studio recording is preferable.

Well, I'm not sure it's that simple. Yes, the very top of the voice often emerges as shrill and/or unsteady, but in her middle register, Callas gives us some of the most beautiful singing she ever committed to disc, certain parts voiced more movingly than on any other of her recordings. She also, unlike on the earlier cast, has a supporting cast fully worthy of her. Ludwig may have been an unlikely choice, but it is one that really paid off. The two voices not only blend wonderfully well in duet, but one senses that the two singers enjoyed a deep sense of rapport. Corelli is a little chary of the coloratura, but he is otherwise a superb Pollione and Zaccaria sonorous bass is an improvement on the rather woolly tones of Rossi-Lemeni.

My final ranking for my five Callas Normas would therefore be:-

1. La Scala 1955 (with Simionato, Del Monaco and Zaccaria under Votto)
2. Studio 1960 (with Ludwig, Corelli and Zaccaria under Serafin)
3. Trieste 1953 (with Nicolai, Corelli and Christoff under Votto)
4. London 1952 (with Stignani, Picchi and Vaghi under Gui)
5. Studio 1954 (with Stignani, Fillipeschi and Rossi-Lemeni under Serafin)

One thing's for sure, though it's sixty years since Callas made her second studio recording, her hegemony in the role remains unchallenged to this day.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2021, 03:52:20 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2562 on: June 08, 2021, 12:44:20 AM »


The fifth in my collection of Callas Normas is also the first opera set I ever owned. Popuar opinion has it that the voice had deteriorated too much by 1960 and that, in all but matters of sound, the earlier studio recording is preferable.

Well, I'm not sure it's that simple. Yes, the very top of the voice often emerges as shrill and/or unsteady, but in her middle register, Callas gives us some of the most beautiful singing she ever committed to disc, certain parts voiced more movingly than on any other of her recordings. She also, unlike on the earlier cast, has a supporting cast fully worthy of her. Ludwig may have been an unlikely choice, but it is one that really paid off. The two voices not only blend wonderfully well in duet, but one senses that the two singers enjoyed a deep sense of rapport. Corelli is a little chary of the coloratura, but he is otherwise a superb Pollione and Zaccaria sonorous bass is an improvement on the rather woolly tones of Rossi-Lemeni.

My final ranking for my five Callas Normas would therefore be:-

1. La Scala 1955 (with Simionato, Del Monaco and Zaccaria under Votto)
2. Studio 1960 (with Ludwig, Corelli and Zaccaria under Serafin)
3. Naples 1953 (with Nicolai, Corelli and Christoff under Votto)
4. London 1952 (with Stignani, Picchi and Vaghi under Gui)
5. Studio 1954 (with Stignani, Fillipeschi and Rossi-Lemeni under Serafin)

One thing's for sure, though it's sixty years since Callas made her second studio recording, her hegemony in the role remains unchallenged to this day.
That was also my first set of any opera sung by Maria Callas, and I was bowled over. I came--in my teens--from being obsessed with the Germanic repertoire (Wagner, Strauss, Mozart, Berg), and this recording opened a whole new world to me: the intense beauty of Bellini's score, and the extraordinary artistry of Callas. As an aside, my grandmother and mother were lucky enough to see Callas onstage as Norma at the Met in 1956.

With the advent of CDs, I decided to get the first studio recording insteda of this stereo remake, and I think that was a mistake. Particularly, I'm not fond at all of Mario Fillipeschi's Pollione, and even if Callas may be in stronger voice in the earlier set, the interpretative insights she had developed by 1960 are really touching, and the added fragility is IMHO a plus (as I recall it, at least). I should buy the recent CD release of this stereo Norma.
ritter
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2563 on: June 08, 2021, 01:00:35 AM »
That was also my first set of any opera sung by Maria Callas, and I was bowled over. I came--in my teens--from being obsessed with the Germanic repertoire (Wagner, Strauss, Mozart, Berg), and this recording opened a whole new world to me: the intense beauty of Bellini's score, and the extraordinary artistry of Callas. As an aside, my grandmother and mother were lucky enough to see Callas onstage as Norma at the Met in 1956.

With the advent of CDs, I decided to get the first studio recording insteda of this stereo remake, and I think that was a mistake. Particularly, I'm not fond at all of Mario Fillipeschi's Pollione, and even if Callas may be in stronger voice in the earlier set, the interpretative insights she had developed by 1960 are really touching, and the added fragility is IMHO a plus (as I recall it, at least). I should buy the recent CD release of this stereo Norma.

If I were to choose but one studio recording of the opera, then it would definitely be the second Callas set. I think it has been severely underrated over the years, though I seem to remember both Andrew Porter and Alan Blyth preferred it to the first one.

I sometimes think one should trust one's initial instincts better. I used to have the Karajan Fidelio on LP, and really loved it, particularly as I had seen Dernesch in the role of Leonore when Scottis Opera brought their production to Newcastle-upon-Tyne when I was at university there. When I ame to buy a version on CD, I went for Klemperer as everyone told me it was the best recording of the opera. However I was rather disappointed with it and didn't find it anywhere near as thrilling or moving as the Karajan version, and I eventually ended up buying the Karajan on CD too, and I still prefer it.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2564 on: June 09, 2021, 01:03:08 AM »


It is a great shame none of Callas's La Scala performances of this opera the previous year were recorded, for there her colleagues were Corelli and Bastianini, who no doubt made a great deal more of the music than the no more than adeqauet Ferraro and Ego.

Still, in the absence of that recording, it is good that we have this one. Callas is not in her best voice and top notes are apt to glare, but her command of Bellinian cantilena is as wonderful as ever and she constantly gives the other singers lessons in how to phrase and mould the musical line.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2565 on: June 11, 2021, 12:24:48 AM »


It was a 1949 Cetra recording of Elvira's Mad Scene, which first introduced the wider world to the voice of Maria Callas and there is no doubt she breathes life into the character of Elvira in a way few have done before or since. This 1953 recording finds her in top form, the voice wonderfully limpid and responsive right up to the stunning top Eb she sings at the end of the Mad Scene.

This time round I felt better disposed to her colleagues than I sometimes do, even if none of them is exactly ideal. There is a fuller review on my blog http://tsaraslondon.com/2017/01/09/i-puritani/.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2566 on: June 11, 2021, 06:21:40 AM »
That was also my first set of any opera sung by Maria Callas, and I was bowled over. I came--in my teens--from being obsessed with the Germanic repertoire (Wagner, Strauss, Mozart, Berg), and this recording opened a whole new world to me: the intense beauty of Bellini's score, and the extraordinary artistry of Callas. As an aside, my grandmother and mother were lucky enough to see Callas onstage as Norma at the Met in 1956.

With the advent of CDs, I decided to get the first studio recording insteda of this stereo remake, and I think that was a mistake. Particularly, I'm not fond at all of Mario Fillipeschi's Pollione, and even if Callas may be in stronger voice in the earlier set, the interpretative insights she had developed by 1960 are really touching, and the added fragility is IMHO a plus (as I recall it, at least). I should buy the recent CD release of this stereo Norma.
The only two ones that I have with Callas are the 1960 Serafin and also the London one with Gui.  I really should get the Votto one from 1955.

How special that your mother and grandmother were able to see her perform!  How old was your mother then--hopefully old enough to have enjoyed it well?  :)  I have a friend who met her once (and shook her hand).  He was friends with Erich Leinsdorf's son and, if I'm recalling correctly, met her at Maestro Leindorf's house.  Lucky guy!

PD

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2567 on: June 11, 2021, 08:47:30 AM »

How special that your mother and grandmother were able to see her perform!  How old was your mother then--hopefully old enough to have enjoyed it well?  :)  I have a friend who met her once (and shook her hand).  He was friends with Erich Leinsdorf's son and, if I'm recalling correctly, met her at Maestro Leindorf's house.  Lucky guy!

PD

I remember a friend of my mother's recalling how he saw her at her debut as Norma at Covent Garden. He was a regular Covent Garden attendee and said it was the most thrilling performance of his opera going life.

I also had an actor friend, recently deceased, who told me a wonderful anecdote about the Covent Garden Toscas of 1964. He had got the walk on part of one of the soldiers through the stage manager at the opera house, who was a friend of his. As he was such a huge opera fan, she would allow him to watch the performances from the wings. One night he noticed that Callas, who was usually waiting in the wings long before her entrance wasn't there. This was in the days before they had tannoys and a call boy had to go and tell the artists when they were due on. The stage manager, noting Callas's absence asked him to see if he coud see her anywhere. In those days they stored the sets for the operas that were in the current season below the stage. Callas, who was as blind as a bat without her glasses, had somehow managed to miss the door to the stage and he found her wandering around down below. "Mme Callas, are you ok?"he asked. "Thank God," she replied, "I came here to do Tosca and found myself in the middle of Boris Godunov. "Can you help me?" He led her back to the stage in plenty of time to make her entrance and nobody was any the wiser.

The next day he receieved a huge box of chocolates, with a signed photograph saying "To my saviour." It was one of his most prized possessions.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2568 on: June 11, 2021, 09:03:03 AM »
I remember a friend of my mother's recalling how he saw her at her debut as Norma at Covent Garden. He was a regular Covent Garden attendee and said it was the most thrilling performance of his opera going life.

I also had an actor friend, recently deceased, who told me a wonderful anecdote about the Covent Garden Toscas of 1964. He had got the walk on part of one of the soldiers through the stage manager at the opera house, who was a friend of his. As he was such a huge opera fan, she would allow him to watch the performances from the wings. One night he noticed that Callas, who was usually waiting in the wings long before her entrance wasn't there. This was in the days before they had tannoys and a call boy had to go and tell the artists when they were due on. The stage manager, noting Callas's absence asked him to see if he coud see her anywhere. In those days they stored the sets for the operas that were in the current season below the stage. Callas, who was as blind as a bat without her glasses, had somehow managed to miss the door to the stage and he found her wandering around down below. "Mme Callas, are you ok?"he asked. "Thank God," she replied, "I came here to do Tosca and found myself in the middle of Boris Godunov. "Can you help me?" He led her back to the stage in plenty of time to make her entrance and nobody was any the wiser.

The next day he receieved a huge box of chocolates, with a signed photograph saying "To my saviour." It was one of his most prized possessions.
Great stories!  ;D  Glad that she wasn't so badly off sight-wise that she was still able to perform well on stage!  Or not the case?  :( ???  Was she extremely near-sighted?  Or, how did she manage it?  Wonder how singers like Bocelli have managed to do so in live performances?  Must be horribly difficult!

PD
« Last Edit: June 11, 2021, 09:19:18 AM by Pohjolas Daughter »

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2569 on: June 11, 2021, 09:36:21 AM »
Great stories!  ;D  Glad that she wasn't so badly off sight-wise that she was still able to perform well on stage!  Or not the case?  :( ???  Was she extremely near-sighted?  Or, how did she manage it?  Wonder how singers like Bocelli have managed to do so in live performances?  Must be horribly difficult!

PD

It's very well known that Callas was extremely short-sighted (or near-sighted, as you say in the US). That's one of the reasons stage rehearsals were very important to her. She would pace out all her moves so that she knew exactly where everything was. No one watching a performance would ever have known, but it could well have been one of the reasons her performances were so inwardly intense. She couldn't even see the conductor, but she was so musical she didn't need to.

There is another story of her rehearsing with Erich Kleiber (probably I Vespri Siciliani) and he called out to her, "Maria, watch me." She replied, "No, Maestro. Your eyesight is better than mine. You watch me."

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2570 on: June 11, 2021, 10:45:36 AM »
...
How special that your mother and grandmother were able to see her perform!  How old was your mother then--hopefully old enough to have enjoyed it well?  :)  ...
My mother was 16 at the time, and she remembered the occasion many years later, so she probably did enjoy it!  ;)

Another, second-hand, anecdote: a couple, very close friends of my parents, who lived in Paris in the early sixties, showed up at Maxim’s for dinner one night, without having reserved a table. They were told that there was a “permanently reserved” table, but that by that time of night they thought the “owners” of that table wouldn’t come, and were ushered to it. After they had ordered, the maître came and said that the “owners” of the table finally did come, and apologetically asked whether my parents’ friends would mind sharing the table. “No problem“, they replied, and moments later Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis we’re having dinner with them  :)
ritter
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«Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra
trafitto da un raggio di sole:
ed è subito sera.»

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2571 on: June 12, 2021, 01:08:05 AM »


March 5 1955 was the date that ushered in Callas's annus mirabilis when she made her debut as Amina in Visconti's production of La Sonnambula with Leonard Bernstein in the pit. If there were still any doubt in the matter, this was the night Callas was deinitively and definitely crowned Regina della Scala. Between them Callas, Visconti and Bernstein revealed Bellini's opera to have a great deal more dramatic impact than people had suspected. Alongside her, Cesare Valletti made the perfect Elvino and it is a great pity he didn't sing the role in the studio recording or any of the revival performances in 1957. Bernstein also gives us a lot more of the score than Votto.

The Warner transfer of this recording is much better than EMI's earlier effort, though it still overloads and distorts at climaxes. Still, we are fortunate indeed that it was committed to disc as this was obviously a thrilling performance and the audience's excitement is palpable. Undoubtedly one of Callas's greatest nights in the theatre.

https://tsaraslondon.com/2017/12/01/la-sonnambula-la-scala-1955/
« Last Edit: June 12, 2021, 01:33:10 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2572 on: June 13, 2021, 01:30:46 AM »


Two years after the sensational premiere of Visconti's production under Bernstein, La Scala revived the production, also taking it to Edinburgh and Cologne and this studio recording represents the revival cast. We unfortunately lose Valletti and a bit more of the music as Votto makes more cuts in the score than Bernstein did. Votto is nowhere near as imaginative a conductor as Bernstein either.

That said, Callas is still in good voice and the sound of this studio recording is a good deal better than the 1955 live recording. I also really like the cadenza Callas adopts between the two verses of Ah non giunge, in which she sweeps up to a fortissimo Eb in alt, effecting a diminuendo on the note before cascading down a two octave chromatic scale, all in one breath, the like of which you will not hear from any other soprano. In certain matters at least Callas's technique could fear no comparisons. It's no trick of the gramophone either, as she does exactly the same live in Cologne, though there she does have to snatch a breath before the final chain of rising turns.

Fuller review here http://tsaraslondon.com/2017/01/08/la-sonnambula/.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2573 on: June 14, 2021, 01:16:19 AM »


I come to the end of my Bellini listening with Callas's live Cologne performance of La Sonnambula, which looks almost the same as the studio version, but improves on it in so many ways. The prosaic Votto is somehow woken up out of his slumber and here conducts a much more exciting and propulsive performance, if without Bernstein's revelations.

Callas is in superb voice, singing with a pearly radiance and executing all the florid music with consummate ease, her trills absolutely heavenly.  In fact all the principals, especially Monti, are inspired to give of their best. The sound of this live performance is a good deal better than the 1955 La Scala performance and I'd be hard pressed to say which of the two performances I prefer. How fortunate we are to have both.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2574 on: June 15, 2021, 11:43:58 PM »


What a fabuous score this is. It's not an opera of course, though its final pages are undeniably operatic, but I've always thought it captures the spirit of Shakespeare's play better than any other musical adaptation I've heard.

This was the third of Davis's recordings of the work, captured live at the Barbican in 2000 and brings back thrilling memories of the concerts themselves, one of which I attended. Davis paces the score brilliantly, bringing out all the difficult cross rhythms and intricate scoring of Berlioz's sparkling score.

Of the soloists, Kenneth Tarver is excellent, but I think both mezzo and bass have been bettered on other recordings. Nonetheless this is one of the finest versions of this wonderfully original score to be heard.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas