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Lyric & Coloratura Arias / Maria Callas


Release Date: 09/13/2005 
Label:  Emi Great Recordings Of The Century Catalog #: 76843   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Francesco CilèaUmberto GiordanoAlfredo CatalaniArrigo Boito,   ... 
Performer:  Maria Callas
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia OrchestraMilan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Callas was more versatile than one might realize. The care and musicianship she brought to her dramatic roles stood her in equally good stead for comedy, as this Una voce poco fa reveals.

By now, so much ink, actual and virtual, has been spent arguing pro and con Maria Callas that there's little point in prolonging the discussion. So this review will offer the not-quite-random thoughts and reactions engendered and provoked by this album - which, by the way, I enjoyed immensely.

The voice was huge. One understands this intellectually if one knows the history - how Serafin convinced Callas to step into Puritani while she was in Italy to sing the Walküre Brünnhilde. Since recording engineers
Read more compress the sound of big voices, to avoid overloading, record listeners have to take the size and amplitude of Callas's voice somewhat on faith. For the alert listener, it's the color changes that give the game away. The sense of a sudden upsurge of overtones as the soprano reaches the top of the staff - which happens only with large, well-produced voices - is almost visceral, even heard through the monaural recording. The downward transition, into the chest voice - and it is a real transition, not the squawking register break perpetrated by some would-be spintos - brings a subtler but still striking enrichment and darkening of the tone.

And Callas did know how to sing. This shouldn't need to be spelled out, but one finds the opinion circulating in various quarters that the rapid erosion of the voice was caused by poor technique. Lord knows that's so, frequently enough, but in this case, the Délibes and Meyerbeer arias - sung by Callas in Italian translation as listed above - should put paid to that idea. It isn't just the way she sails through the coloratura, moving fluidly in and out of the topmost range with ample reserves of tone, though that's wonderful enough. Listen to her dynamic control, alternating fortes and firmly supported pianos for the echo effects of Ombra leggera, attacking the Bell Song's first note strongly and diminishing to a gentler mix. The CD is worth having, I think, just for the two French pieces.

Yes, there were technical irregularities, not yet full-blown problems in 1954. One wonders at the busy vowel formations; Callas pulls some bright "e" and "i" vowels into a dark "pocket," which doesn't particularly help either with intelligibility - Callas's is generally excellent - or with maintaining a consistent legato. Then there's that peculiarly bright, lifted "ah", particularly on sustained tones in the upper-middle, perhaps intended to keep the tone light. I suspect it was this formation - which tends also to lift the voice off its physical support - that would ultimately lead to the wiry, "flapping" high notes of later years, such as we hear in the 1955 recordings here. There's some unsteadiness, too, in the earlier recordings, and not on the highest notes. The top A-flat on "atroce" in Adriana Lecouvreur's first aria, the first "mai più" (a G) in La Wally, the high As in L'altra notte all betray varying degrees of unsteadiness; but the full-voiced climactic high Bs of the Chenier and Wally arias are firm.

Even admirers of Callas's acting didn't always realize how much the music of each role was the vehicle for her stage persona. More than most singers, Callas understood how the music complemented and extended the sense of the bald text, so that her musical discipline enhanced the dramatic side of her performances. The recitatives and arioso passages, where one can't hide behind a beautiful melody, make this more clearly evident than the arias, though you can sense the same involvement there. She brings immediacy to the opening lines of La mamma morta, simply by pacing them naturally, in the narrative rhythms of Italian. Similarly, the single recitative line that sets up Adriana Lecouvreur's first aria is spacious: not self-indulgent in the "aimless diva" manner of some students - and some divas! - but weighting the statement with care.

And Callas was more versatile than her renown in the big, tragic roles might suggest - she could play comedy, and she could sing "Classically." The care and musicianship she brought to her dramatic roles stood her in equally good stead for comedy, as this Una voce poco fa reveals. She sings the aria in Rossini's original mezzo key of E major, where most leggiero sopranos transpose it up. In this slightly lower range, the soprano's full timbral palette comes into play, making for a substantial character: the descending runs suggest, not a merely foxy Rosina, but a formidable one.

The Cherubini and Spontini performances, despite the occasional strain - the Medea lies a bit high for Callas's full voice - are models of how to realize the expressive capacity of music built on formal, contained structures and emotional reserve. (We get some of this in the Rossini as well, which after all isn't that far removed from the Classical style.) And, where the reserve itself is the point - as in the gently rocking pastoral rhythms of Caro oggetto - it is impeccably rendered.

Serafin's conducting is mostly excellent, save for the inexplicably droopy interlude in Una voce poco fa. The sound is plausible. There's a grainy tone to the Philharmonia in mono, especially noticeable when they play out. But Callas's voice reproduces well, only occasionally threatening to overwhelm the equipment, as it did in the Puccini aria recital.

-- Stephen Francis Vasta, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Adriana Lecouvreur: Io son l'umile ancella by Francesco Cilèa
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1902; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1954 
Venue:  Watford Town Hall, London 
Length: 3 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
2.
Adriana Lecouvreur: Poveri fiori by Francesco Cilèa
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1902; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1954 
Venue:  Watford Town Hall, London 
Length: 3 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
3.
Andrea Chénier: La mamma morta by Umberto Giordano
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/1954 
Venue:  Watford Town Hall, London 
Length: 4 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
4.
La Wally: Ebben?... Ne andrò lontana by Alfredo Catalani
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/1954 
Venue:  Watford Town Hall, London 
Length: 4 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
5.
Mefistofele: L'altra notte in fondo al mare by Arrigo Boito
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/1954 
Venue:  Watford Town Hall, London 
Length: 7 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
6.
Le pardon de Ploërmel "Dinorah": Ombre legère by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/1954 
Venue:  Watford Town Hall, London 
Length: 5 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
7.
Lakmé: Où va la jeune indoue? "Bell Song" by Léo Delibes
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; France 
Date of Recording: 11/1954 
Venue:  Watford Town Hall, London 
Length: 8 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
8.
I vespri siciliani: Mercè, dilette amiche "Bolero" by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/1954 
Venue:  Watford Town Hall, London 
Length: 3 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
9.
Medea: Dei tuoi figli la madre by Luigi Cherubini
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1955 
Venue:  Teatro Alla Scala, Milan, Italy 
Length: 4 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
10.
La Vestale: Tu che invoco con orrore by Gasparo Spontini
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1807; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 06/1955 
Venue:  Teatro Alla Scala, Milan, Italy 
Length: 10 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
11.
La Vestale: O nume tutelar by Gasparo Spontini
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1807; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 06/1955 
Venue:  Teatro Alla Scala, Milan, Italy 
Length: 2 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
12.
La Vestale: Caro oggetto by Gasparo Spontini
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1807; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 06/1955 
Venue:  Teatro Alla Scala, Milan, Italy 
Length: 3 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
13.
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Una voce poco fa...Io sono dolcile by Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Maria Callas (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Date of Recording: 11/1954 
Venue:  Watford Town Hall, London 
Length: 6 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Language: Italian 

Sound Samples

Adriana Lecouvreur (2005 Digital Remaster): Ecco: respiro appena...Io son l'umile ancella
Adriana Lecouvreur (2005 Digital Remaster): Poveri fiori
Andrea Chenier (2005 Digital Remaster): La mamma morta
La Wally (2005 Digital Remaster): Ebben?...Ne andrò lontana
Mefistofele (2005 Digital Remaster): L'altra notte in fondo al mare
Il Barbiere di Siviglia (2005 Digital Remaster): Una voce poco fa (Rosina)
Dinorah, '(Le) pardon de Ploërmel' (2005 Digital Remaster): Ombre légère (Shadow Song)
Lakmé (2005 Digital Remaster), Act II: Dov'è l'indinana bruna? (Bell song)
I vespri Siciliani, '(The) Sicilian Vespers' (2005 Digital Remaster): Mercè, dilette amiche (Bolero)
Medea (2005 Digital Remaster): Dei tuoi figla la madre
La Vestale (2005 Digital Remaster): Tu che invoco
La Vestale (2005 Digital Remaster): O nome tutelar
La Vestale (2005 Digital Remaster): Caro oggetto

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