Maria Callas Remastered: The Complete Studio Recordings (1949-1969) | Warner 2564633991

Maria Callas Remastered: The Complete Studio Recordings (1949-1969)

£189.95

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Label: Warner

Cat No: 2564633991

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 69

Genre: Vocal/Choral

Release Date: 22nd September 2014

Contents

Artists

Maria Callas (soprano)
Eugenia Ratti
Fiorenza Cossotto
Nicola Monti
Mario Filippeschi
Ebe Stignani
Robert Massard
Gianni Poggi
Paolo Silveri
Anna Moffo
Rolando Panerai
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Eugenio Fernandi
Nicolai Gedda
Lucia Danielli
Richard Tucker
Fedora Barbieri
Giuseppe di Stefano
Luigi Alva
Nicola Rossi-Lemeni
Tito Gobbi
Francesco Albanese
Ugo Savarese
Christa Ludwig
Franco Corelli
Renata Scotto
Mirto Picchi
Ferruccio Tagliavini
Piero Cappuccilli
Carlo Bergonzi
Carlo Tagliabue
RAI Chorus Turin
Paris Opera Chorus
Chorus & Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
French Radio National Orchestra
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra
Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan
RAI Orchestra Turin
Paris Opera Orchestra

Conductors

Victor de Sabata
Herbert von Karajan
Alceo Galliera
Gianandrea Gavazzeni
Gabriele Santini
Antonino Votto
Tullio Serafin
Arturo Basile
Georges Pretre
Nicola Rescigno

Works

Bellini, Vincenzo

I Puritani
La Sonnambula
Norma

Bizet, Georges

Carmen

Cherubini, Luigi

Medea

Donizetti, Gaetano

Lucia di Lammermoor

Leoncavallo, Ruggiero

Pagliacci

Mascagni, Pietro

Cavalleria Rusticana

Ponchielli, Amilcare

La Gioconda

Puccini, Giacomo

La Boheme
Madama Butterfly
Manon Lescaut
Tosca
Turandot

Rossini, Gioacchino

Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville)
Il Turco in Italia

Verdi, Giuseppe

Aida
Il trovatore
La Traviata
La forza del destino
Rigoletto
Un ballo in maschera

Artists

Maria Callas (soprano)
Eugenia Ratti
Fiorenza Cossotto
Nicola Monti
Mario Filippeschi
Ebe Stignani
Robert Massard
Gianni Poggi
Paolo Silveri
Anna Moffo
Rolando Panerai
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Eugenio Fernandi
Nicolai Gedda
Lucia Danielli
Richard Tucker
Fedora Barbieri
Giuseppe di Stefano
Luigi Alva
Nicola Rossi-Lemeni
Tito Gobbi
Francesco Albanese
Ugo Savarese
Christa Ludwig
Franco Corelli
Renata Scotto
Mirto Picchi
Ferruccio Tagliavini
Piero Cappuccilli
Carlo Bergonzi
Carlo Tagliabue
RAI Chorus Turin
Paris Opera Chorus
Chorus & Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
French Radio National Orchestra
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra
Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan
RAI Orchestra Turin
Paris Opera Orchestra

Conductors

Victor de Sabata
Herbert von Karajan
Alceo Galliera
Gianandrea Gavazzeni
Gabriele Santini
Antonino Votto
Tullio Serafin
Arturo Basile
Georges Pretre
Nicola Rescigno

About

Postage charges outside of the UK:

Europe - £20.00; USA - £30.00; Rest of the World - £40.00


Although Maria Callas died, aged just 53, as long ago as September 1977, she remains an icon: as a supreme singing actress, as a celebrity, and as a woman of great style and elegance. The epitome of the operatic diva, the American-born Greek soprano is recognised as a singer who defined, and even redefined, opera in the 20th century and she has never lost her place among the world’s top-selling classical artists. With the release of 'Callas Remastered: The Complete Studio Recordings', opera lovers will now be able to hear her as never before.

Warner Classics is now the guardian of Maria Callas’s official recorded catalogue, and this 69-CD deluxe box set contains all the studio recordings that she made for both EMI/Columbia and the Italian label Cetra between 1949 and 1969. Each recording has been painstakingly remastered in 24-bit/96kHz sound at Abbey Road Studios, using the original tapes, and the entire collection has been curated with the greatest of care. The 26 complete operas and 13 recital albums contained in the box will also be made available as separate releases.

Conceived as a true collector’s edition, 'Callas Remastered' presents each individual opera or recital CD in its original artwork. It also contains a 132-page hardback book with essays, a biography and chronology, rarely-seen photos and reproductions of revealing letters written by Maria Callas, Walter Legge and other EMI executives. The opera librettos and aria texts are provided on a CD-ROM.

Contents:
Bellini: I puritani

Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, Rolando Panerai
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

Until she achieved a triumph in the delicate coloratura role of Elvira in I puritani – in Venice in 1949 under the tutelage of maestro Tullio Serafin – Maria Callas had been making her name in dramatic roles, such as the epically scaled title role in Die Walküre, which she had been singing just days before. Her success in Bellini’s final opera set her firmly on the path to bel canto supremacy. Joining her as Arturo in this 1953 recording is one of her best-loved colleagues, the tenor Giuseppe di Stefano.

Bellini: La sonnambula (1957)
Maria Callas, Eugenia Ratti, Fiorenza Cossotto, Nicola Monti
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Antonino Votto

Like Lucia di Lammermoor and Elvira (I puritani), Amina, the gentle heroine of La sonnambula, was a role that had become associated with light-voiced coloratura sopranos. Callas brought both a new substance and subtlety to the role when Luchino Visconti staged it for her at La Scala in 1955. This recording was made two years later, when the production was revived.

Bellini: Norma (1954)
Maria Callas, Mario Filippeschi, Ebe Stignani
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

This is the first of Callas’s two complete recordings of her signature role, the druid priestess Norma, in which she has remained unrivalled for 50 years. It captures her voice in its imposing early prime, while in the two famous duets for Norma and Adalgisa she is partnered by Ebe Stignani, generally considered the greatest Italian mezzo-soprano of her era. The conductor is Callas’s mentor Tullio Serafin.

Bizet: Carmen (1964)
Maria Callas, Nicolai Gedda, Robert Massard
Paris Opéra Orchestra / Georges Prêtre

Towards the end of Callas’s career, there were many rumours that she was planning to perform Carmen on stage. This was never to be, but Carmen became her penultimate complete recording of an opera – and her only complete recording of a French opera. With Georges Prêtre, one of her favoured conductors, and the ever-stylish Nicolai Gedda as her Don José, she captured every facet of the role. As Gramophone said when the set was first released: ‘Hers is a Carmen to haunt you.’

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor (1953)
Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi
Chorus & Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino / Tullio Serafin

This Lucia di Lammermoor was the first complete recording that Callas made under the aegis of Walter Legge for EMI/Columbia – and also her first recording with Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi and her mentor Tullio Serafin. She had made her role debut as Lucia the previous year (1952), bringing tragic stature to the archetypal fragile bel canto heroine. Gramophone described her recorded performance as ‘certainly some of the finest singing of our time’.

Ponchielli: La Gioconda (1952)
Maria Callas, Fedora Barbieri, Gianni Poggi, Paolo Silveri
RAI Chorus & Orchestra Turin / Antonino Votto

It was as Ponchielli’s long-suffering ballad singer, La Gioconda, that Callas made her Italian debut, in 1947 at the Arena di Verona, and it proved crucial to her career. Five years later, La Gioconda became her first studio recording of a complete opera. It showcases both the dark-hued splendour of her voice at this period – she was still in her twenties – and her inimitable intensity and insight.

Puccini: La bohème (1956)
Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Anna Moffo, Rolando Panerai
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Antonino Votto

Callas never sang the role of Mimì on stage, but this did not prevent her recorded interpretation from being, as described by Philip Hope-Wallace in Gramophone, ‘brilliantly realised … This Mimì comes alive and later haunts you in the most extraordinary way … one of the most moving I have ever heard.’ Giuseppe di Stefano is an ardent Rodolfo and the young Anna Moffo makes a delectable Musetta.

Puccini: Tosca (1953)
Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Victor de Sabata

This Tosca, made in 1953 with the forces of La Scala, is a landmark in recording history. Conducted with searing intensity by Victor de Sabata, it teams Callas with two of her closest colleagues, the tenor Giuseppe di Stefano and the baritone Tito Gobbi – a performer who could rival Callas in dramatic finesse and power. Tosca’s aria ‘Vissi d’arte’ (I lived for art) has come to be seen as Callas’s personal manifesto.

Puccini: Turandot (1957)
Maria Callas, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Eugenio Fernandi
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

Callas sang the role of Turandot 24 times on stage, in the late 1940s. It was the role originally planned for her US debut, but the opera company went bankrupt and the performances (scheduled for Chicago in 1947) never took place. She brings unusual subtlety to Puccini’s icy princess, while Elisabeth Schwarzkopf – more readily identified with Fiordiligi and the Marschallin – is surprise casting as the self-sacrificing Liù.

Puccini: Madama Butterfly (1955)
Maria Callas, Nicolai Gedda, Lucia Danielli
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Herbert von Karajan

A famous backstage photo was taken in Chicago after one of just three performances that Callas gave of Madama Butterfly. It shows the soprano in her Japanese costume, snarling furiously at a bailiff who had served a writ on her – the very image of the tempestuous diva. By contrast, in her recording of the role, ‘it is, miraculously', as the critic John Osborne observed, ‘the 15-yearold girl and not the great Callas who stands before us.’

Puccini: Manon Lescaut (1957)
Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

Each act of Puccini’s episodic opera shows Manon Lescaut in a different light – from the ingénue of the first to the desperate, dying woman of the last. Though Callas never performed the role on stage, she captures every aspect of this passionate, but selfish and enigmatic character. In this particular Puccini opera, the tenor is by no means overshadowed by the soprano, and Giuseppe di Stefano duly dominates the gripping scene at Le Havre. The young Fiorenza Cossotto – a powerhouse in roles such as Amneris and Eboli – makes a cameo appearance as the Madrigal Singer.

Verdi: Aida (1955)
Maria Callas, Richard Tucker, Fedora Barbieri, Tito Gobbi
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

One of the legendary moments in Callas’s career came in 1950 in Mexico City, when she interpolated a stupendous top E flat at the end of the Triumphal Scene in Act II of Aida. In this recording under Serafin she abided by the score, but still prompted Gramophone to speak of her ‘fascinating art and prodigious personality’, observing the way she was ‘rapt in imaginative intensity in the significance of the words’.

Verdi: Rigoletto (1955)
Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

Callas only sang Gilda in Rigoletto in one run of performances, in Mexico City in 1952, and she recorded the role three years later. She moves beyond the girlish tone and sparkling coloratura of the character’s first scenes to create a figure of tragic stature as events unfold. ‘Once heard, this rendering is never likely to be forgotten', was Gramophone’s judgement on her interpretation, and the same could apply to Tito Gobbi’s, embodying every aspect of the  accursed court jester.

Verdi: Il trovatore (1956)
Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Rolando Panerai, Fedora Barbieri
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Herbert von Karajan

Like Norma, the role of Leonora in Il trovatore demands both bel canto finesse and considerable vocal and dramatic weight, but Callas sang it only some 20 times. This recording – in which she, Fedora Barbieri, Giuseppe di Stefano and Roland Panerai constitute a suitably impressive quartet of principals – marked her farewell to the complete role and also her final collaboration with Herbert von Karajan.

Puccini Arias (1954)
Maria Callas
Philharmonia Orchestra / Tullio Serafin

Callas came to be closely identified with Tosca, and it was the only Puccini role she sang with any frequency during her reign as a prima donna. Turandot had figured prominently in her early career, and she performed Cio-Cio San (Madama Butterfly) three times in Chicago in 1955, but all the other characters in this recital did not figure in her stage repertoire. Yet, as Gramophone said when this album was first released: ‘To each and every aria she brings the stamp of an individual artistry, something of character acting, and a concern for the dramatic and musical shaping of
the aria which is very unlike the sort of Puccini singing we usually hear today
.’

Verdi Arias I (1958)
Maria Callas
Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra / Nicola Rescigno

This recital brings together three operas from the earlier years of Verdi’s career (Nabucco, Ernani and Macbeth) and one of his greatest mature masterpieces (Don Carlo). Callas sang all of them on stage apart from Ernani, and Lady Macbeth proved a triumph for her when she opened the La Scala season in December 1952. Gramophone greeted this recital by saying: ‘Mme Callas has seldom had such a field day and her dramatic instinct is well nigh perfect in interpreting these wonderful pages, each characterised convincingly – and differently.’

Mad Scenes (1958)
Maria Callas
Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra / Nicola Rescigno

Callas did not make complete recordings of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and Bellini’s Il pirata, though, as the queen of La Scala, she enjoyed triumphs in both roles in 1957–1958. The vocally and dramatically demanding final scenes of both operas feature in this recital with Ophélie’s mad scene from Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, another coloratura extravaganza. When this recital first appeared in 1959, Gramophone wrote: ‘This is a most remarkable record, not only for its material … but for its astonishing vividness and dramatic poetry … It has been a thing of much wonder for me.’

Lyric and coloratura arias (1954)
Maria Callas
Philharmonia Orchestra / Tullio Serafin

As this recital amply demonstrates, Maria Callas encompassed an extraordinary range of roles. She is as convincing in the pinpoint coloratura of Lakmé’s ‘Bell Song’ (‘Her chromatic scale is beautifully done and she sails up to the region known as in alt with the greatest ease', said Gramophone) as in the sweeping, richly coloured lines of Maddalena’s ‘La mamma morta’ from Andrea Chénier, famously and movingly featured on the soundtrack of the 1993 Hollywood film Philadelphia. ‘There is great tenderness and simplicity, deep emotion, and the most lovely moulding of the vocal phrases', wrote Gramophone, ‘Madame Callas’s characterisations … are nothing less than superb, and altogether there is some of her finest singing yet recorded.’

Callas at La Scala (1955)
Maria Callas
Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

Callas first sang at Milan’s legendary La Scala for the opening of the 1951–1952 season (in Verdi’s I vespri siciliani) and she became closely identified with the theatre, notably in productions directed by Luchino Visconti and his protégé Franco Zeffirelli. Spontini’s La vestale was staged for her there in 1954, Bellini’s La sonnambula in 1955, and her final La Scala performances came in 1962 with Cherubini’s Medea. ‘This wonderful record gives us … Callas at her most spell-binding and enthralling,’ wrote Gramophone. ‘Callas at La Scala … shows the diva at her most exciting and most beautiful.’

Leoncavallo: Pagliacci (1954)
Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

While Pagliacci’s regular companion piece, Cavalleria rusticana, figured prominently in Callas’s early career, Leoncavallo’s one-acter had no place in her stage repertoire. But as Gramophone wrote of this recording: ‘When Callas [as Nedda] and Gobbi [as Tonio] are on the stage the drama is strikingly unfolded … There has been [no Nedda] more urgently or pressingly feminine than Callas … the only one to create real tension at the idea of Canio reading her thoughts; the only one to give meaning … to her mood as the birds fly overhead; and … the only one to greet her lover with delight.’

Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana (1953)
Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

In 1939, as a 15-year-old student in Athens, Maria Callas made her stage debut in the demanding role of Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana. Five years later she sang it professionally with the Greek National Opera Company. In 1953, when she was already a star – shortly to record Tosca – Tullio Serafin enlisted her as the last-minute replacement for an indisposed colleague at the sessions for Mascagni’s one-acter at La Scala. The result was a recording in which full-blooded verismo was raised to new interpretative heights.

Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia (1957)
Maria Callas, Luigi Alva, Tito Gobbi
Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra / Alceo Galliera

As she demonstrated in both Il barbiere di Siviglia and Il turco in Italia, Callas, the great tragedienne, could also turn her skills to comedy. As it happened, the 1956 La Scala production of Rossini’s most popular opera did not prove a great success with audiences, but its stars – Callas, Tito Gobbi and Luigi Alva – reassembled in London the following year for this recording. Callas sang the role of Rosina at its original mezzo-soprano pitch and her version of ‘Una voce poco fa’ – punctuated by an unforgettable ‘ma’ (‘but’) in the cabaletta – is a miracle of both elegance and wit.

Rossini: Il turco in Italia (1954)
Maria Callas, Nicolai Gedda, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Gianandrea Gavazzeni

Callas’s two comic roles were both in operas by Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia and Il turco in Italia. She first played the capricious and flirtatious Fiorilla – a married Neapolitan woman who takes up with a visiting Turk – in Rome in 1950. Five years later, at La Scala, she appeared in a production by Franco Zeffirelli, also, famously, the director of her Covent Garden Tosca and Paris Norma. Gramophone wrote: ‘Mme Callas acts vividly, chiding, boasting, melting, and when in typical Rossinian style she is given a “key” figure, each repetition of it carries, so one thinks, a slightly different meaning. I found myself teased by memories of these little phrases for hours afterwards.’

Verdi: Un ballo in maschera (1956)
Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Antonino Votto

Callas’s first stage appearances in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera came at La Scala in 1957, a year in which Milan also saw her in La sonnambula and Anna Bolena. As in this recording, made the year before, she shared Verdi’s most spectacular soprano-tenor duet (in Act II) with Giuseppe di Stefano. This was the last time Callas and Di Stefano appeared together in opera, though they reunited in the 1970s to direct I vespri siciliani in Turin and to give a series of joint concerts in Europe, the USA, Canada, South Korea and Japan. Gramophone judged this recording of Ballo to be ‘one of Callas’s most compelling assumptions’.

Verdi: La traviata (1953)
Maria Callas, Francesco Albanese, Ugo Savarese
RAI Chorus and Orchestra Turin / Gabriele Santini

Violetta, the most complex and fully-rounded of Verdi’s heroines, was one of the roles that defined Maria Callas as an artist. She performed it more than 60 times between 1951 and 1958, most famously in Luchino Visconti’s production at La Scala in 1955/56. It is often said that the role demands a different kind of voice for each act, and, when she made this recording for the Cetra label in 1953, Callas offered youthful, ringing power complemented by coloratura prowess and the capacity for great delicacy. More than 60 years on, her characterisation, in its subtlety and truth, still sets the standard for La traviata.

Mozart, Beethoven, Weber recital (1963–1964)
Maria Callas
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra / Nicola Rescigno

This recital of Austro-German repertoire (albeit composed to Italian and English texts) was prompted by Callas’s indignation on discovering that her EMI producer, Walter Legge, had chosen his wife, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, for a recording of the Verdi Requiem. ‘If your wife can sing my repertoire, then I can sing hers,’ declared Callas. As it turned out, she complemented arias from ‘Schwarzkopf roles’ (Donna Elvira and Countess Almaviva) with one of Donna Anna’s arias and with scenas by Beethoven and Weber that she had first learned as a student in Athens (she had sung Leonore in Fidelio in Greece at the age of just 21). ‘The disc shows the voice in the excitingly fresh condition that was heard in the Covent Garden Toscas [1964],’ wrote Gramophone. ‘The Callas personality is here at its most intense. This tigress is fiercer than ever, in some ways more exciting than ever. The flashing eyes seem to drill into one, and the scalp tingles … This is an exciting disc to fire and excite admirers.’

Rossini & Donizetti Arias (1963–1964)
Maria Callas
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra / Nicola Rescigno

Although the bel canto repertoire was crucial to Callas’s career, and she played a significant part in reviving its fortunes, she never sang any of the roles – from both serious and comic operas – that are represented in this recital. Gramophone said: ‘It is extraordinary how the whole quality and colour of Callas’ voice changes as she moves from one character to another – for example, from the grand manner appropriate to the Babylonian queen [Semiramide] to the passion of the spoilt Italian duchess [Lucrezia Borgia] and thence to the simple charm of the countrywoman Adina [L’elisir d’amore].

Callas à Paris I (1961)
Maria Callas
French Radio National Orchestra / Georges Prêtre

Callas never sang a role in French on stage, though she had studied French repertoire as a student and one of her most famous roles, Cherubini’s Medea, had originally been written in French as Médée. From the early 1960s she made her home in Paris, where in 1961 she recorded this recital of French-language arias for both soprano and mezzo-soprano, composed in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. ‘The recital … is a tour de force of sympathetic interpretation,’ wrote Gramophone after her death. ‘The range is astounding, so much so that hearing the record is both an inspiring and upsetting experience; not merely because of the sense of the early loss of so great an artist [as Callas], but because the plights of these great human archetypes – Orpheus, Alceste, Carmen, Dalila, Chimène and Juliet – are themselves so uplifting and disturbing as Callas presents them to us … Records like this change people’s lives.’

Verdi Arias II (1964)
Maria Callas
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra / Nicola Rescigno

Only one of the roles represented in this Verdi recital figured in Callas’s stage repertoire: Elisabetta in Don Carlo, which she performed at La Scala in 1954. From the same opera she also sings Eboli’s mezzo-soprano showpiece “O don fatale”, a feature of her recitals in the early 1960s. An adventurous choice are Mina’s arias from the rarely-heard Aroldo (Verdi’s reworking of Stiffelio): ‘The vivid pronunciation of the words, the burning emotion conveyed by tone-colour, and the powerful and eloquent sense of rhythm, are all memorable. So is the fearless quality of Callas’s singing,’ said
Gramophone. When it came to Desdemona’s scene from Act IV of Otello, the critic wrote: ‘Verdi’s music is brought to life as by no other artist. Her voice is in fine state: very beautiful, and drawing a full glorious line.’

Bellini: Norma (1960)
Maria Callas, Christa Ludwig, Franco Corelli
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

Callas first sang Bellini’s Norma in 1948, when she was just 25. She went on to perform the role of the heroic, but vulnerable Druid priestess – the ultimate embodiment of bel canto – more frequently than any other. In this second studio recording, her conductor was again Tullio Serafin (he originally tutored her in the role in 1948), and the venue was again La Scala – where the opera was premiered in 1831. By 1960, Callas brought a wealth of new nuance to her interpretation, and she is aptly partnered by the creamy-voiced Christa Ludwig (in a rare recording of an Italian role) and the towering Franco Corelli.

Cherubini: Medea (1957)
Maria Callas, Renata Scotto, Mirto Picchi
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

The role of the betrayed and finally murderous Medea became closely associated with Maria Callas. In 1969, several years after her final operatic performance, she even starred as Jason’s spurned wife – as an actress, not as a singer – in a film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. She first appeared in Cherubini’s opera in 1953 in Florence, with Vittorio Gui conducting, and later that year collaborated with Leonard Bernstein in a staging at La Scala; in 1962, the role brought her final appearances at Milan’s great opera house.

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor (1959)
Maria Callas, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Piero Cappuccilli
Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra / Tullio Serafin

In the six years that had passed since 1953, and her first recording of Lucia di Lammermoor, Callas’s voice had maybe become less robust, but her singing had become still more perceptive. As Gramophone said: ‘Mme Callas has refined her interpretation of the role, and made it more exquisite, more fascinating, musically and dramatically more subtle – in a word, more beautiful.’

Ponchielli: La Gioconda (1959)
Maria Callas, Fiorenza Cossotto, Piero Cappuccilli
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Antonino Votto

Callas’s second studio recording of 'La Gioconda' was made in 1959, six years after her last stage performances of the role, which in 1947 has been the vehicle for her Italian debut (at the Arena di Verona). The recording came at a turning point in Callas’s life – when her relationship with Aristotle Onassis led to her separation from her husband, Giovanni Battista Meneghini. Writing in Gramophone in 1960, Philip Hope-Wallace said: ‘I simply cannot imagine anyone getting more out of the role than she does this time … the total effect is riveting.’ Joining Callas were two young Italian singers destined for great careers: the mezzo-soprano Fiorenza Cossotto as her rival, Laura, and, as the sinister Barnaba, baritone Piero Cappuccilli.

Puccini: Tosca (1964–1965)
Maria Callas, Carlo Bergonzi, Tito Gobbi
Paris Opéra Chorus & Paris Conservatoire Orchestra / Georges Prêtre

Tosca was the role in which – in 1965, the year this recording was made – Callas gave her last complete performances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera and the Paris Opéra. This was her final complete recording of an opera, and, 12 years after her first version of Tosca, it reunited her with the Scarpia of Tito Gobbi. They were joined by Carlo Bergonzi as Cavaradossi. Gramophone praised ‘a thrilling and very complete interpretation, with scene after scene, bar after bar, brought to life by sheer intelligence and dramatic insight’.

Verdi: La forza del destino (1954)
Maria Callas, Richard Tucker, Carlo Tagliabue
Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Tullio Serafin

Relentlessly pursued by Fate, Leonora in 'La forza del destino' is a haunted heroine whose passions and fears are expressed on a grand scale. Callas’s stage experience of Forza was limited to her early career in Italy – in fact, Leonora was her first Verdi role – but, as Lord Harewood, founder of Opera magazine, observed, her recorded assumption exhibited ‘an unparalleled musical sensibility and imagination and a grasp of the musico-dramatic picture which is unique’. She took her place in a powerful cast conducted by her mentor Tullio Serafin.

The First Recordings (1949)
Maria Callas
RAI Orchestra Turin / Arturo Basile

Recorded in 1949 when Maria Callas was just 25, this debut recital encapsulates the young soprano’s astonishing maturity, versatility and technical finesse. She had already sung all three roles showcased here – Wagner’s Isolde and Bellini’s Norma and Elvira (I puritani) – in the theatre. As Gramophone, which described the recital as ‘incandescent and spellbinding’, wrote: ‘The Liebestod is a beautiful example of sustained interpretation, with a long line running through the whole piece, each phrase finding part-fulfilment in the next until the climax is reached', concluding overall that: ‘The eloquence of phrase and the technical control put at the service of a discerning heart and mind are obvious to hear.’

The Callas Rarities (1953–1969)
Maria Callas
Various orchestras & conductors

The tracks on this album were recorded over a period of no less than 16 years. The earliest, the two versions of Donna Anna’s ‘Non mi dir’, date from 1953, and were intended to test microphone placings before Callas made her first commercial recording for EMI: Lucia di Lammermoor. The latest, the Verdi arias recorded with Nicola Rescigno in 1964/65 and 1969, were never approved for release by the soprano. When 'Callas Rarities' was first released in 1993, Gramophone wrote: "Each item, each phrase almost, has something to be said about it: the whole collection makes essential listening".

Callas à Paris II (1963)
Maria Callas
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra / Georges Prêtre

As in her first 'Callas à Paris' recital, recorded two years previously, the diva performs arias of diverse weight, colour and mood – from the darker tones of Berlioz’s Marguerite to the brilliant ‘Jewel Song’ of Gounod’s Marguerite, and from the mezzo-ish melancholy of Massenet’s Charlotte to the soprano coquetry of the same composer’s Manon. ‘Simply as an artist', wrote Gramophone in its review of the recital, ‘in her sense of line, her feeling for a word, her command of colour and her mastery of the whole complex art of interpretation – [Callas] is so far ahead of all other contemporary singers, and of all but the greatest past singers, too, that she almost spoils us for the rest.’

Verdi Arias III (1964–1969)
Maria Callas
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra & Paris Opéra Orchestra / Nicola Rescigno

This third Verdi collection was the last recital that Callas recorded, over an extended period between 1964 and 1969. Arias from operas in her stage repertoire – Aida, Un ballo in maschera, I vespri siciliani and Il trovatore – were complemented by numbers from more rarely heard works from Verdi’s ‘galley years’: When five of the tracks from this recital were originally released as 'Callas by Request', Gramophone admired the way "Callas revealed her matchless command of line, verbal declamation and musical insight".

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