Two ways to view Maria Callas: Singer/Actress

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Two ways to view Maria Callas: Singer/Actress

Post by Lance » Thu May 18, 2017 5:12 pm

No question, there remains a HUGE cult for Maria Callas. Callas the singer who also brings her roles to life combined with her extraordinary acting skills. The question is: is Callas considered a soprano with an absolutely gorgeous voice (in comparison to others such as Caballé or Sutherland)? As a "singing actress," she is otherwise probably incomparable. But let's break it into two equal halves: singer/actress. Naturally, there are some things she has done that places her on the very top both ways.

I must also add that I, personally, have never found her voice to be absolutely beautiful, musically, one that would equate with other celebrated singers such as those mentioned above and countless others one might name. Howeer, I admire her, especially prior to the days of the wide wobble, especially in her later career. I have also admired how she puts a role across - the manner in which she portrays the part. Yes, I collect her recordings - in depth!

I would be interested in hearing your comments about this. Regardless of whatever anyone thinks, of course, the Callas Legend is here to stay.
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Re: Two ways to view Maria Callas: Singer/Actress

Post by maestrob » Fri May 19, 2017 12:36 pm

Maria Callas was at her best during the mono era of the LP (1949-1959), which means, sadly, that her stereo recordings in modern sound do not show her at her best. Luckily, we have ears that can appreciate her earlier live recordings as well despite sonic deficiencies. Luckily as well that modern sound in the recording studio began in 1954, with the introduction in the western world of full frequency range microphones and tape recorders, most of which has been carefully curated and now preserved on CD, in spite of the mono (single track) sound. RCA and Mercury began recording in stereo in 1954, but EMI (Callas's label) held back stereo recordings until 1959 when the stereo LP was introduced (They were slow to introduce tape recorders in the studio as well: most of Gieseking's Debussy was recorded on 78RPM masters!). In point of fact, Callas's EMI studio recordings were made on tape, so the sound, while not stereo in most cases, is quite modern.

I would say that Callas acted with her voice: there is more meaning in her singing than 10 other singers combined, IMHO. She never lost touch with the character she was portraying, whether it was Abigaile & Aida, or Violetta & Gilda. A great voice, a great singer, even when the voice was badly flawed (as in her Carmen recording), she always had to power to move an audience deeply, and for that I will forever be grateful.

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Re: Two ways to view Maria Callas: Singer/Actress

Post by John F » Sat May 20, 2017 4:54 am

For me, operatic singing and classical singing generally has never been a beauty contest, whether of the voice's sound or the singer's looks. maestrob has it exactly right: it's about the meaningfulness of the singing, not just the notes but the words and the character who utters them. Sure, a beautiful voice (like Fritz Wunderlich's, for example) gives a unique kind of pleasure, and if it's used with taste and secure technique, to ask for more might seem ungrateful. But I do, in the repertoire that I care most about, and it's singers like Callas, Astrid Varnay, Hans Hotter, and Wolfgang Windgassen, whose voices were not conventionally beautiful or imposing in themselves, who matter most to me.
John Francis

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