EMI have marked the Puccini anniversary with a re-release of Callas's complete Puccini studio recordings. For those who don't want to go that far we have this two-disc set of highlights which should be enough to keep most people happy. It's in mono sound throughout, and it shows both the best and worst of Callas in full flow. There is very little here in the way of vocal beauty, but plenty of dramatic truth.
Most of the recordings are taken from the complete sets she recorded with La Scala in the 1950s, and these are supplemented with extracts from a studio recital she did with Serafin and the Philharmonia, so with Turandot we hear her as both the ice princess and as Liu. These recordings have long been classics and it is good to get bite-size chunks from them in this manageable form. Generally speaking the earlier the recording the better we find Callas's voice, so the classic 1953 Tosca shines as brightly as ever. Callas remains a mass of contradictions throughout: her entry in Act 1 and the subsequent love duet show her as the jealous harpy and the affectionate lover who melts at Cavaradossi's tender words. Vissi d'arte is tender and moving, while at the same time revealing Tosca's coiled tension. Di Stefano is also on his best form here, the voice exhibiting lyrical warmth and even a willingness to shade down his timbre. Gobbi's assumption of Scarpia remains the most rounded on record. This was long before he embodied the role for Zeffirelli in 1964, but we can see him clearly in our minds' eye: it is a shame that all we hear of him is the brief scene with Tosca in the church in Act 1.
Callas is also wonderful as Cio-Cio San. She makes the young girl's innocence remarkably believable in Act 1, even if it is a little difficult to imagine her as a 15-year old. She is full of rapt wonder at her entrance, while the love duet is full of tingling erotic anticipation. Gedda is also a superb Pinkerton here, his tone matching Callas' at every turn. Callas matures into the self-deluding but strong young woman of Act 2 with a poignant Un bel di, and a defiant Che tuo madre dovra. Her extraordinary acting is evident in the suicide scene, and she is helped here as elsewhere by Karajan's masterful control of the orchestra and his shaping of the scene to convey a horrible inevitability to the whole story.
Callas is somewhat less convincing as Mimi. She cannot really sum up the innocence and naivety of the character, with a somewhat steely Mi chiamano Mimi, though her death scene is tremendously moving, even if di Stefano mars it with his stentorian weeping. Her tone was beginning to lose its shine by 1958 and we can detect the beginnings of a wobble in her higher notes. Unfortunately these are all too prominent in Manon Lescaut, especially in the Act 2 duet which can be somewhat taxing to listen to at times. In quelle trine morbide sounds shrill and somewhat strained, though to her credit she uses exactly these qualities to make the death scene all the more compelling.
Her imperious nature works very well indeed as Turandot, and her vocal difficulties seem not to have bothered her for the complete studio recording. She commands every scene in which she appears: In questa reggia holds no terrors for this princess and she dominates Eugenio Fernandi's Calaf in the riddle scene. Going from this to her studio portrayal of Liu is a bit of a jolt, but she even manages some pianissimo tenderness for Signore ascolta. From her recital, Senza mamma is beautifully moving though O mio babbino caro isn't alluring enough.
Callas was undoubtedly an exceptional artist, probably one of the best Puccini interpreters of the 20th century, but this set is probably more for those who know that already rather than those new to Puccini looking for somewhere to start. In spite of its re-mastering the mono sound still feels limited, and Callas's dominating character isn't well suited to all the roles here. Nevertheless, it's a fitting tribute to a great artist, and, with reservation, it'll do nicely as a souvenir of Puccini too.
Source: Simon Thompson (musicweb-international.com)
Το 2008, στο πλαίσιο του εορτασμού των 150 χρόνων από τη γέννηση του Τζάκομο Πουτσίνι, η δισκογραφική εταιρεία EMI επανακυκλοφόρησε τον πλήρη κατάλογο με τα έργα του συνθέτη, σε ηχογραφήσεις με τη Μαρία Κάλλας.
Στον δεύτερο από τους δύο δίσκους με επιλογές από αυτήν τη μοναδική επετειακή επανέκδοση, η Μαρία Κάλλας – ίσως η καλύτερη ερμηνεύτρια ηρωίδων του Πουτσίνι, τον εικοστό αιώνα – ερμηνεύει άριες και άλλα μέρη από τις όπερες «Μαντάμα Μπατερφλάι», «Τζάννι Σκίκκι» και «Τουραντό». Τη συνοδεύουν οι κορυφαίοι σολίστες Λουτσία Ντανιέλι (μεσόφωνος), Νικολάι Γκέντα (τενόρος), Μάριο Μποριέλο (βαρύτονος), Ευγκένιο Φερνάντι (τενόρος), Ελίζαμπεθ Σβάρτσκοπφ (υψίφωνος) και Τζουζέπε Νέζι (τενόρος). Τη Χορωδία και την Ορχήστρα της Σκάλας του Μιλάνου και την Ορχήστρα Φιλαρμόνια του Λονδίνου διευθύνουν οι θρυλικοί μαέστροι Χέρμπερτ φον Κάραγιαν και Τούλιο Σεραφίν.
Maria Callas (1923-1977)
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
Vissi D'Arte: The Puccini Love Songs
♪ Madama Butterfly (1904)
1. Quanto cielo!...Ancora un passo or via (Act I - Chorus, Butterfly, Sharpless)
2. Vieni la sera (Act I - Pinkerton, Butterfly, Suzuki)
3. Un bel dì vedremo (Act II - Butterfly)
4. E questo? e questo? (Act II - Butterfly, Sharpless)
5. Una nave da guerra... Scuoti quella fronda (Act II - Suzuki, Butterfly)
6. Con onor muore (Act II - Butterfly, Pinkerton)
Madama Butterfly: Maria Callas
Suzuki: Lucia Danieli
Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton: Nicolai Gedda
Sharpless: Mario Borriello
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Milano / Herbert von Karajan (1955)
♪ Gianni Schicchi (1918)
7. O mio babbino caro
Lauretta: Maria Callas
Philharmonia Orchestra / Tullio Serafin (1954)
♪ Turandot (1924)
8. Signore, ascolta (Act I - Liù)
9. In questa reggia (Act II - Turandot, Calaf)
10. Straniero, ascolta! (Act II - Turandot, Calaf, Chorus, Liù, Emperor)
11. Tu, che di gel sei cinta (Act III - Liù)
12. Del primo pianto (Act III - Turandot, Calaf, Chorus)
Princess Turandot: Maria Callas
Prince Calaf: Eugenio Fernandi
Liù (10): Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Liù (8 & 11): Maria Callas
The Emperor Altoum: Giuseppe Nessi
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Milano (9, 10 & 12)
Philharmonia Orchestra (8 & 11)*
Tullio Serafin (1958, 1954*)
Maria Callas, soprano
Lucia Danieli, mezzo-soprano
Nicolai Gedda, tenor
Mario Borriello, baritone
Eugenio Fernandi, tenor
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano
Giuseppe Nessi, tenor
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Milano
Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989)
Tulio Serafin (1878-1968)
EMI Classics 2008
(HD 1080p – Audio video)
Maria Callas | Vissi D'Arte: The Puccini Love Songs, Vol. I/II (Audio video)
Maria Callas – 38th anniversary of her death
Giacomo Puccini: Tosca, Act II – Maria Callas, Renato Cioni, Tito Gobbi, Georges Prêtre, Franco Zeffirelli
Maria Callas Sings Operatic Arias, 1955 – Digital remastering 2014 – Philharmonia Orchestra, Tullio Serafin (Audio video)