Archive for Maria Callas

Maria Callas: “Ah, rendetemi la speme…”

Posted in Opera with tags , on September 16, 2015 by telescoper

I’m reminded that Maria Callas (“La Divina”) passed away on this day in 1977, so by way of a tribute here she is singing a famous “Mad Scene” from the Opera I saw at the Wales Millennium Centre last week, I Puritani by Vincenzo Bellini. This is a rare recording of the young Callas, aged only 25, made in 1949. It’s historically important too, because Callas stepped into this production at short notice in Venice that year, having started out on a  career as a dramatic soprano singing Wagnerian roles. Critics sneered when they heard that she had been cast as Elvira, but almost overnight she transformed the role and so began her almost single-handed revival of the entire bel canto repertoire.

One critic wrote:

Even the most sceptical had to acknowledge the miracle that Maria Callas accomplished… the flexibility of her limpid, beautifully poised voice, and her splendid high notes. Her interpretation also has a humanity, warmth and expressiveness that one would search for in vain in the fragile, pellucid coldness of other Elviras.

Her she is as Elvira, deranged by the loss of her beloved who has vanished without explanation. It’s as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. It’s not the best sound quality, but the emotional power of her voice shines through. Few singers have even come close to matching Callas in roles like this.

Qui la voce sua soave mi chiamava…e poi sparì.
Qui giurava esser fedele,  qui il giurava,
E poi crudele, mi fuggì!
Ah, mai più qui assorti insieme nella gioia dei sospir.
Ah, rendetemi la speme,  o lasciate, lasciatemi morir.


Una Furtiva Lagrima

Posted in Biographical, Opera with tags , , , , on December 2, 2014 by telescoper

Too busy for a proper post today so here’s a bit of music. On Saturday I had the pleasure of listening on BBC Radio 3 to a live broadcast of the opera L’elisir d’amore from Covent Gardens, one of my all-time favourite works. I definitely have a thing for the kind of Italian Bel Canto exemplified by the work of Gaetano Donizetti and this is one of his greatest; certainly his most performed anyway. One the surface it’s a light romantic comedy with a very silly plot involving a quack doctor and a fake potion, but it’s beautifully characterized and has considerable dramatic depth and wonderful music. I don’t mind daft operas, as long as they’re sufficiently daft to be true to real life…

Anyway, listening on the radio made me realise how long it has been since I went to see an opera live. Looking at the Covent Garden website to see if there were any more performances due, I saw the prices of the remaining tickets, which brough tears to my eyes. All of which brings me to the highlight of L’elisir d’amore, the Act III aria Una Furtiva Lagrima, one of the most famous and beautiful tenor arias in the entire repertoire. Here it is, sung by the late great Pavarotti. Enjoy!

Oh, and while I am on the theme of opera I’ll just mention that Maria Callas was born on this day in 1923. Happy Birthday, La Divina!


Sola, Perduta, Abbandonata

Posted in Opera with tags , , , on April 27, 2013 by telescoper


Pleurez mes yeux

Posted in Opera with tags , , , on July 14, 2012 by telescoper

Lucia’s Mad Scene

Posted in Opera with tags , , on July 2, 2011 by telescoper

I came across this little clip of the great Maria Callas on youtube, and couldn’t resist sharing it for the benefit of those (apparently many) people out there who think she was an overrated singer. I’m a devout Callas fan, but I also freely admit that many of the performances she recorded later in her career (especially in the 60s) weren’t all that good and it’s unfortunate that most of her famous performances were in an era when audio technology wasn’t really up to the task of recording live opera.

However, you can get an idea of how very special Maria Callas was in this little clip recorded live at La Scala in Milan in 1954. It’s a poor quality recording but her voice has a stunning radiance to it despite the distortions. This is the very end of the lengthy Act III “Mad Scene” from Donizetti‘s Opera Lucia di Lammermoor. It’s a tremendously demanding piece, which Callas sings with flawless technical accuracy and extraordinary expressive power leading up to a ringing top E♭ at the end. Her approach to the vocal gymnastics required by the bel canto repertoire was uniquely full-on and, without a safety net, the sense of danger surrounding these performances made them truly electrifying.

Only some of the music  made it onto the recording, but there’s enough there to convince the doubters that this was a very special artist. And, listening to the applause at the end, the notoriously demanding audience at La Scala were clearly convinced too!

Incidentally, some argue that Callas’ voice was in decline after her substantial weight loss (she lost 80lbs between 1953 and 1954), but this was the slim Callas and her voice sounds pretty good to me!


Posted in Opera with tags , , , on May 29, 2010 by telescoper

Tonight’s the night of the dreadful Eurovision Song Contest, which I won’t be watching, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to post a reminder of the days when Eurovision was, at least occasionally, much classier. Here’s a live Eurovision broadcast from 1957, featuring Maria Callas. The aria is Casta Diva, from Norma by Vincenzo Bellini, a masterpiece of Italian Bel Canto opera. Gorgeous.


Posted in Opera with tags , on May 16, 2009 by telescoper

Just  in case you’ve had the misfortune to sit through the tedious spectacle that is the annual Eurovision song contest,  let this be a reminder that Eurovision wasn’t always synonymous with utter garbage…