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My first Callas: Madama Butterfly, (well, actually my second)

98.208.103.161

Posted on July 20, 2012 at 21:04:58
jdaniel@jps.net
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but found the sound of her famous Tosca just too limiting. Butterfly is another story. And I'm not a Callas fanboy. Don't really know the girl.

Picked up the UK Columbia box set and had a listen. Was a little worried after her first distant entrance, voice "adjusted" to sound like a 15 year old girl, (would Ashcroft have Pinkerton arrested as well as all of us listeners?), which Freni does so gloriously for Karajan II (ZZZZZzzzzz) and Sinopoli. Afterwards Callas ain't so bad.

What I found really amazing was Karajan the Young. What fabulous conducting: the transparency, the lushness, and climaxes whipped up to such a (controlled) frenzy that one would think Furtwangler was at the helm.

I've never listened the a Butterfly which went by so quickly.

 

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RE: My first Callas: Madama Butterfly, (well, actually my second), posted on July 21, 2012 at 03:28:05
pbarach
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There is a superb live performance of Lucia di Lammermoor with Callas, and conducted by Karajan, from 1955:
http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=128026

And there is also a studio recording of Il Trovatore with Callas and Karajan on EMI (many different reissues) that is wonderful.

 

+1 on the Callas/Karajan Trovatore, posted on July 21, 2012 at 06:43:08
vinyl phanatic
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absolutely fantastic performance and the recording is first rate. The opening scene of Act IV is just heart-stopping. Callas at her best.

 

If singing is all about purity of sound, perfect pitch, unerring control, then no, Callas is not a "great" , posted on July 21, 2012 at 08:24:52
tinear
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singer.
But if conveying emotion is the objective, she is the greatest I've ever heard.

 

RE: +1 on the Callas/Karajan Trovatore, posted on July 21, 2012 at 14:33:26
pbarach
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And here's Act IV of the Callas/Karajan recording of Trovatore:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ut9qsHG_VWo

 

That's it, thanks. but..., posted on July 22, 2012 at 09:34:31
vinyl phanatic
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one should not judge the audio quality from that youtube link. It's a very poor representation of what the original sounds like. Among other things, Callas' voice is nowhere near that shrill in the upper register on the original. If I get a minute, I'll put up a dub from my Columbia.

 

sound on youtube isn't good, you're right, posted on July 22, 2012 at 12:13:01
pbarach
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but what a beautiful performance

 

First should be the Tosca with deSabata. (NT), posted on July 22, 2012 at 13:48:29
Kal Rubinson
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Yes, I must listen to it again. Imprinted on Sinopoli's with Freni, hard to break, posted on July 22, 2012 at 15:08:28
jdaniel@jps.net
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from that one.

 

Not for me., posted on July 22, 2012 at 17:46:21
Kal Rubinson
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The Callas/deSabata is sui generis.

 

Question and a point, posted on July 23, 2012 at 08:35:06
TGR
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John - first, how did you get a UK Columbia in Sacramento? There are lots of EMI recordings I would get if I had better access to them. It is quite frustrating that we are stuck with Angel pressings here in the UK (I am talking about vinyl, of course).

Of the big four Puccini operas (Boheme, Butterfly, Tosca and Turandot) I have to confess to liking Butterfly the least. I have heard Callas sing "Un Bel Di" on a set of arias I own, but I have never heard the complete set. I own, on CD, the Barbirolli with Scotto and Bergonzi, and I bet I haven't listened to it in at least ten years. However, as you normally do, you have made me curious to hear something that I hadn't thought about.

I can easily imagine someone not loving Callas' artistry - not a classically attractive voice, at all - really 3 voices in the quality of her voice in the low, medium and high registers, and those not perfectly integrated so there is an audible break as she sings. But...she had a way to make a character come alive like no other singer I have heard. Maybe, closer to our generation, Teresa Stratas had some of that, but Callas was unique.

One of her recordings that I plump for, because it is never listed as one of the top recordings of the opera, is her Turandot, with Serafin conducting. Serafin is terrific and the La Scala orchestra plays as though their life depends on it. Fernandi, as Calaf, is just OK - he won't make you forget Bjorling, Corelli or Pavarotti, but Callas sings Turandot like no other. Most sopranos give you a one-dimensional character - Callas gives you a passionate woman, not an ice princess. When you hear her sing "In Questa Reggia" you can understand how Calaf is able to melt her heart. No other soprano, in my experience, has been able to suggest the complex nature of Turandot's personality. Try it.

With respect to her Tosca, I have never even bothered with another Tosca since hearing Callas.....I have seen the opera a few times, and yes, I have heard other recordings - even own the Davis on Pentatone...but I hear everything I need to in this recording.

 

RE: Question and a point, posted on July 23, 2012 at 20:41:11
jdaniel@jps.net
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John - first, how did you get a UK Columbia in Sacramento?

It was sitting in the Goodwill on Arden. Probably dumped by widow of Military guy once stationed in Europe. It's been an astonishingly good couple of weeks in the Thrifts, after months and months of nothing.

For me, the turn on is overall: Karajan and soloists achievea Furtwangler-esque, rough and ready sense of ecstasy in the climaxes-so ironic considering Karajan's current reputation. As I mentioned, Callas' first appearance in Act I is painful IMHO but after that I can't imagine why anyone would have a problem.

Secondly, the mono sound is extremely warm, transparent (Karajan?) and wide-ranging; much like Furt's Tristan in Kingsway but climaxes are even more "smooth" and refined. But--I hasten to add--decidedly mono. I don't want anyone to get excited.

I'll have to listen to the famous Tosca again. I had it on UK Columbia Blue/Silver labels but found the sound too depressing. And I'm pretty lenient. IIRC you said the repress is pretty spectacular. Saving my pennies....

 

BTW Kal, off topic but do you still do vinyl? Heard of Japanese "Audio Clinic?" , posted on July 23, 2012 at 22:22:14
jdaniel@jps.net
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Just picked up Janis' Prokofiev 3rd spread over two sides, (as opposed to the original Merc) and am just sitting here blown away. Not just subtly better than RFR original but leaps and bounds better: bloom around piano, hall ambience improved, transparency.... Not a big Janis fan in this work but I'm sold.

Tell HP to look out for it. : ) Pictured on Left.

Don't usually do a head's up but I can't find any info on this Japanese series, and usually find Japanese masters to be a little dull, if beautifully-presented.

 

Tosca sound, posted on July 24, 2012 at 08:40:00
TGR
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I found the Speakers' Corner repress to be excellent - but....but I had tracking problems until I upgraded from a Rega P3 to my Nottingham Space/294. This too is decidedly mono, and the sound is definitely early 50s, but still feels layered to me, and the performance jumps into your listening room. Callas IS Tosca. Gobbi and de Stefano are excellent, although none of them have exactly the greatest voices in the world...but they inhabit their characters. De Sabata is spectacular. A must of every operatic collection.

 

No. Yes., posted on July 24, 2012 at 13:13:08
Kal Rubinson
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Still own lots but never play 'em.
I have a few of the Audio Clinic series.

 

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