£16 post free World-wide

 


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


 


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

Search
What's New
Previous CDs
Concerts
Jazz
Nostalgia
Composers
Resources
Announce
Labels index


Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Some items
to consider


BRAHMS Complete Edition
58CD £95.22


Shostakovich 14 Petrenko


Rachmaninov #3
Prokofiev #2

 


Dunedin Consort

Peter Grimes

Hymn of Jesus: Sea Drift

Complete Mozart Edition
Mozart complete edition

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 5 & 8 £11

Weiner, Klepper, Bloch, Schulhoff £12 post free


Available again

REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
CDAccord
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter
 

Buy through MusicWeb
for £5.99 postage paid World-wide.

Musicweb Purchase button

Verdi Heroines and Mad Scenes – Maria Callas
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Macbeth: Nel di della vittoria…Vieni! T’affretta; La luce langue; Una macchia
Ernani: Surta è la notte…Ernani Ernani involam...Tutto sprezzo che d’Ernani
Don Carlo: Tu che le vanita
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Anna Bolena: Piangete voi?..Al dolce guidami
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Il Pirata: Oh! S’io potessi…Col sorriso d’innocenza
Maria Callas (soprano)
Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra/Nicola Rescigno
rec.1958
CD sleeve notes in English, no sung texts included
ALTO ALC1156 [77.30]

Experience Classicsonline




 
Maria Callas (1923-1977) has become a legend, an iconic figure that has transcended the mere world of opera. There are movies, plays and other artistic outputs, which have been inspired by her voice and life. The latter was as convoluted as an operatic plot, and ultimately rather sad during her final years. Even while she was still alive, her fame was that of a movie not an opera star. All this poses a particular problem: How does one write objectively about a legend? What can I write about Maria Callas that has not already been written? I cannot add anything but I can say what I think and that is what I tried to achieve with this review.
 
I never heard Maria Callas sing live, for the simple reason that I had not been born when she was at the peak of her powers. This, I think, presents me with a clear disadvantage in the appraisal of her artistry. One thing seems clear: that she was a brilliant actress. This is not so easy to perceive in a purely audio disc! Therefore, I decided to watch the EMI Classics DVD originally filmed when Callas sang at the Royal Opera House in 1962 and 1964. The highlight is the famous Act 2 scene of Tosca, which takes place between Scarpia and the heroine. This scene is perfect testimony to Callas’s brilliance as a dramatic actress. You really hang on her every gesture, expression and word. With her, you feel Tosca’s pain and rage. The acting is magnificent. As for the voice, I was a little disappointed. I thought she was screaming rather than singing in the highest range of her voice. Some of the top notes came across as forced rather than natural. I actually appreciated Tito Gobbi’s singing of Scarpia more than I did that of Callas as Floria Tosca. Still, the scene is very powerfully played and it is easy to grasp why audiences were so responsive to her artistry. She takes you on an emotionally intense ride that will leave you almost exhausted. Perhaps, when the film at the ROH was made, her voice had begun its decline. As an actress she is memorable; as a singer, she is not at her most peerless. I am rather glad to say that the singing is of a higher quality on this CD.
 
Callas had a unique voice. There are not many opera singers whom one instantly recognises when one listens to a recording but Callas is definitely in that category. Her voice is not beautiful or warm but it is distinctive: It is full of drama and with some spectacular flights of coloratura. Although her legato technique is by no means perfect it is one of the best. While her phrasing is not always refined, her singing on the present CD is consistently outstanding most of the time.
 
Verdi Heroines and Mad Scenes, as detailed in the notes, was digitally re-mastered from two LPs, which Callas recorded in September 1958. This was at a time when she was still singing those roles on stage. The first LP was a selection of pieces by Verdi from some of his most famous operas: Ernani, Macbeth and Don Carlo. The scenes from Donizetti’s and Bellini’s operas included in this CD were taken from the second LP. Interestingly, these are not the ones for which Callas was better known. These were not in the league of her signature roles. These were not up there with her Bellini Norma or I Puritani. Instead, she sings here from Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and from Bellini’s Il Pirata.
 
In Verdi, Callas is at her very best in the pieces from Macbeth. This is particularly so for the first Nel di della vittoria where she gives a vibrant andexhilarating performance. Her youthful, sparkling coloratura is as scintillating as champagne. In Surta è la note from Ernani, her head-notes are a touch forced but the delivery is enthralling and exciting. These are followed by Tu che le vanita from Don Carlo. Here her astonishing dramatic powers come fascinatingly across. She delivers the piece with strong, compelling emotions but is simultaneously moving, poignant and exquisitely sad and tender. It cuts through the heart and if you are caught on a sad day, she will make you cry.
 
Verdi is followed by Donizetti’s Anna Bolena where she sings the full scene at the end of the opera as Anna is taken to the scaffold. This scene lasts approximately twenty minutes. Anna’s tragic end is powerfully sung and her innocence is convincingly conveyed. Callas’s singing is visceral, moving, excruciating. This is an innocent woman suffering, being terribly wronged; you will feel it, as if you were yourself on the scaffold. The contrasting emotions and overwhelming feelings are compelling but finely balanced. It never becomes sentimental or tearful. The final piece in the CD is Oh! S’io potessi from Bellini’s Il Pirata. Her singing is again energetic, dynamic and compelling. The darker tones of her voice are effectively showcased in these two final pieces. They become particularly appealing though again some of the top notes are too forceful.
 
The wobble, which her voice developed and which became notorious later, is in some instances already noticeable. You can hear it in the final moments of the scene from Il Pirata. However it had not yet become intrusive and it does not interfere with the quality of the performance. Callas’s tone was not beautiful or harmonious; it lacked warmth. She did not possess the subtlety or the classical beauty of line and elegant refinement of a Renata Tebaldi. What she had was something rarer: An unmistakeable star quality, an impressive range and a dramatic power that to this day make her unique and immediately identifiable.
 
The original recordings of Verdi Heroines and Mad Scenes were done at the peak of Callas’s powers and they do her justice. The sound of the digitally re-mastered CD is of excellent quality and a wonderful tribute to a truly legendary voice. Whether one is a Callas admirer or not this is a disc that will enrich any collection.
 
Margarida Mota-Bull
(Margarida writes more than just reviews, check it online at http://www.flowingprose.com/)
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.