Callas 90

Maria Callas was born on December 2, 1923 in New York. There is relatively little film footage of Callas, which is a shame since she’s thought of as a great artist of the stage. Here’s a clip from one of two films that were made of her as Tosca, this one in 1958, around her prime. Her greatest power, other than creating fully realized characters with her voice, was to inspire idiot opera queens to endless, preposterous verbiage, so I’ll just post the film clip and leave it at that.


9 responses to “Callas 90”

  1. LP says:

    OK, so… watching this, I want to be her for a night, just to feel what it’s like to have that voice come out of me. She’s obviously beyond brilliant, but not being an opera fan myself, I would like to know – how do you compare her to other opera stars? Is she, like, the Meryl Streep of opera? Is she universally considered the greatest, or is there debate?

    Also, can’t remember if I asked you this before or not, but do you prefer to see English translations at the opera, or just roll with the Italian or whatever language it’s in?

  2. T-Mo says:

    This made me mist up. She seems genuinely moved herself by the sadness she’s expressing and by the beauty of the aria.

  3. Mister Smearcase says:

    LP: I think it’s fair to say she is near-universally considered a uniquely great singer. To say the least she is an iconic figure. It gets a little complicated like any discussion of best anything…her prime was brief, her fans get ridiculous about her, some part of her mythos is about image and aura rather than art; there are issues. But anyone who says she’s not one of the greatest is being contrarian. For me she is, accepting that absolutes are meaningless, the greatest.

    I am glad supertitles exist because there are very few works I know well enough to just go and absorb it (add in that singing is harder to understand than speech and my Italian is minimal) but I end up ignoring them a lot because 1) it’s more fun to watch what’s going on and 2) I relate weirdly to opera text and sometimes genuinely don’t care what’s going on other than “a good singer is singing good music.” Opera sung in translation, however, I can’t abide.

    T-Mo: That is her greatness. She appears to live what she’s singing. It’s not acting, per se, because you mostly can’t create a believable acting while singing since people don’t go around singing, but when she sings, she means it, and that is the main thing I’m ever interested in.

  4. Bryan says:

    Whew! Awesome. I can’t recall that I’ve seen video of her before, so thanks for posting this.

  5. GF says:

    There are clips I like better (the costume is awful for one thing–Madame is not flattered by an empire waist…) but this one seemed like the one to post for a number of reasons.

  6. T-Mo says:

    I heard the famed Mexico City high E-flat in Aida for the first time the other day. Ho-lee crap! It also has a great backstory. Too bad there’s no video.

  7. Bryan says:

    Tim, you inspired me to see what has for Callas. Enough to keep you busy, for sure.

  8. J-Man says:

    Smearcase (or anyone else), have you seen any biopics about her? I read the wikipedia after listening to the E-flat and I have to say I’m intrigued.

  9. GF says:

    I haven’t…There was one called Callas Forever that was supposed to be pretty bad…I have seen Terrence McNally’s play The Master Class which is schlocky but sort of fun.

    The E-flat is a great moment, and it’s from a pretty great performance, if you don’t mind boxy sound. Her best recordings are live recordings, some (like Verdi’s Macbeth) in fairly bad sound, though people do love the studio Tosca under de Sabata.

    Somewhere I have a recording I love for extra-musical reasons, a Tosca from the Met that I was astonished to discover existed at all because it was never broadcast, but there it was in a bin at this weird music store in Boston, or so it was labelled. My friend Cathy and I went back to her apartment and put it on her laptop and, yep, that was Corelli singing Cavaradossi for sure, and yep, that was Callas–you could tell from the first word, and you could tell from the hysterical ovation she got from an audience who had been waiting for her return for years. The ovations in Callas recordings are part of the fun.

    See I told you opera queens can’t shut up about Callas once they get started.