Notes and Editorial Reviews
I have a personal criterion for judging sopranos in modern recordings of any role that Maria Callas excelled in: If you can beat Callas, you are gold. And despite her achievements in roles (most of which I find uninteresting, either dramatically or as music), I still think that Callas’s greatest gift to the world of opera, particularly opera in Italy, was to point out to the entire country and the world how much more there was in roles like Elvira in I Vespri Siciliani, Cheribini’s Medea, Iphigénie in this opera, and yes, even Lady Macbeth than had been previously thought. If you had given me a lie detector test in February 1992, a month before this recording was culled from its six live performances at La Scala, I would have told
you that no soprano in the world would ever eclipse Callas’s reading of the title role in this opera.
Yet within the first five minutes of this recording, both Muti’s driving, insistent intensity and Vaness’s driving, soaring voice made me eat those words. And that is no disservice to Callas. Her live performance of this opera is still one of her finest moments, but as you continue to listen to the Vaness recording you realize how much more chameleon-like her performance was. Vaness had more colors in the voice, more changes of focus, volume and even changes of “face” than Callas did in her performance. Don’t ask me how she did it. I’m not sure if it was mostly her idea, Muti’s, or a combination of both. All I know is that it works.
Moreover, the rest of the cast here is superior to Callas’s, particularly the Pylade of Gösta Winbergh that is well-nigh flawless. Millions of opera lovers publicly mourned the death of tenor Franco Corelli, but not me. I mourned the untimely death of Winbergh, one of the finest yet most understated tenors of his time. What other tenor, in this era, so painstakingly built his career, rung by rung, from Mozart to Wagner with every stop in between? His technique was flawless, his tone warm and ingratiating, his interpretations among the finest I’ve ever heard in the varied roles that he sang, and this recording is one of his finest moments.
This recording is also one of Muti’s finest moments. How I wish he’d had this cast when he performed Spontini’s
– Fanfare (Lynn René Bayley [5/2012]) Read less
Works on This Recording
Iphigénie en Tauride by Christoph W. Gluck
Giorgio Surian (Bass),
Carol Vaness (Soprano),
Thomas Allen (Tenor),
Gösta Winbergh (Tenor)
Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,
Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Written: 1778-1779; Vienna, Austria
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