Maria Callas

MARIA CALLAS (soprano)
EMI 5674672 (2CD)
TPT: 2:27:54

reviewed by Neville Cohn

EMI has brought out a 2-CD pack devoted to arias sung by Maria Callas, performances which reinforce a long-held view that although not possessed of a classically beautiful voice, Callas, to a degree unequalled and never surpassed, has the ability to convey the dramatic essence of whatever she sings. There is such intensity of expression, so acute a focus on the meaning of what is being sung, that vocal loveliness (for want of a better word), becomes a secondary consideration. Indeed, at times it is almost entirely abandoned as a performing tool in favour of verismo – truth. And whatever one might think of Callas’ vocal qualities – top notes in “Caro Nome” from Verdi’s Rigoletto sound pinched, abrasive and screechy – few, I suggest, would dispute that as a vocal actress, she was without peer. Hauteur, hatred, defiance, fear, vengeance, terror – emotions often reinforced by an underlying current of hysteria – would make Callas’ interpretations rivetting. In “Quelle trine morbide” from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, for instance, despite ugly top notes, is deeply touching, singing of genuine pathos. And much of a generous 147 minutes – 34 tracks in all – is vintage Callas. For those who seek purity of tone as a listening prerequisite, these are not the CDs for them. But for listeners for whom dramatic truth matters, these performances will satisfy. Time has not dulled these extraordinary interpretations; they are likely to be a long-enduring listening legacy




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