Cher Public

Divina, deconstructed

“The sensation is that you are actually right there in the studio with Callas herself. In comparison to earlier masters of this material, she sounds less abstractly ‘divine’ and more approachably human.” Our Own JJ reviews the massive collection Maria Callas Remastered: The Complete Studio Recordings (1949-1969) for his regular column in the New York Observer.

  • La Valkyrietta

    I also have posted too much, but I think MMII would perhaps agree that Nilsson might be Mount Everest, Leonie Mont Blanc, Caballé the Pyrenees, Magda Mount Vesuvius, Victoria de los Angeles the Aconcagua, Marylin Horne Mount Rainier, etc., etc., but Maria is the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and beyond…

    • marshiemarkII

      Yes vallyta querida, the Only Maria is the Entire Cosmos!!!!!!! but unfortunately I do agree with Nilsson as Mount Everest, unless we keep exclusively for Turandot :D because my Brunnhilde and Elektra and Fidelio Mount Everest is you know who :D

      And by the way, Mount Aconcagua is of course not Vicky dlA, why, Mount Aconcagua is none other than Ms Marshie herself!!!! she was born on one of its ravines……

      • marshiemarkII

        I do NOT agree with Nilsson as Mount Everest…. uggggh

        • Clita del Toro

          I don’t either Marshie dear.

        • Clita del Toro

          I don’t either Marshie dear.

        • marshiemarkII

          Well I do know that you and I agree about the most sublimest Brunnhilde, right Clitisssssima adoree?
          So nice to see you back! all we need is CammiB adoree and the Gurls are baaaaack………

          • Clita del Toro


            LOL I will write Cammiest and see what is going on.

            • La Valkyrietta

              I suspect ypu are both thinking without mentioning Astrid. Fine. As long as you don’t classify Birgit as the likes of Bunker. :)

            • ML

              No, not Astrid. They mean someone more recent.

            • ML

              Clita, while you were out, the same (climbing) source of trouble also took a shot at Camille, who was trying to make a good point about serving Donizetti.

            • The_Kid

              Since I have very little skill in scaling singers to mountains, I decided to refrain from commenting, but I noticed that ML is hell-bent on brown-nosing Camille (who, I am sure, is busy, and has a life outside PB, which is more than one can say for some others) even in absentia. Anyone who wants to read the full thread is welcome to: it is in the comments thread following Joyce Di Donato’s “Stella di Napoli” review.

              Also, I don’t want to insult Camille, whose comments in general are thoughtful and in good taste, but she does have what one poster called a “hate boner” for JDD, or indeed for any mezzo who dares to sing maria stuarda. In fact, this would have been settled amicably (as it was during the initial review of the Met Maria Stuarda), if it weren’t for ML, whose incendiary comments about Camille “kapowing” posters with her “handbag” (as if she stepped out of RuPaul’s drag race!) didn’t (justifiably) irritate Poison Ivy. Things did escalate a bit from that point, but I’m sure Camille is way too mature to sulk (which some posters seem to suggest that she’s doing, and I personally don’t believe), or to value dubious support from johnny-come-latelies whose idea of scholarly debate seems to have been modeled on interactions between pre-op trans hookers outside Brooklyn apartment buildings at 3 am.

            • Mind your business and stop carrying tales like a small town spinster, ML.

            • ML

              Mind your website and stop covering for a (sometimes) obnoxious poster, who ought to defend *herself*.

              Where is moderated Oedipe? Where is Camille?

              And which small town spinster did you have in mind?

              @”The_Kid”: I wash my nose after every post here, and my favorite parts of Camille’s anatomy are none of your business.

            • The_Kid

              I think the website is being managed just fine, ML. If you think otherwise, why not create your own, where you and your companions of choice can lament the sad fate of donizetti operas, display a boner for all gallic singers, and trade nasty little barbs about Jonas Kaufman and Joyce di Donato?
              as for cleaning your nose:if your conduct here is any indication of the way you function in real life, well, ain’t no lye strong enough.

            • Krunoslav

              “… stop carrying tales like a small town spinster, ML.”


            • The_Kid

              Also, I see no reason why la cieca should bend over backwards trying to accommodate posters on her own website, especially posters of dubious mental health whose contributions have ranged from the creepily obsessive to the downright irrational. If you have a high school crush for people who have been deservedly placed on moderation, I suggest you get the internet equivalent of a room, where you can show your adoration for their bodily orifices in private without making horrified onlookers gag. Unless, of course, exhibitionism is your thing.

            • As La Cieca has explained numerous time, “moderation” does not mean banishment. It just means that for the period of moderation, the poster’s posts are reviewed by La Cieca before being posted. From what I understand, Oedipe’s period of moderation is long over but he has decided not to return.

              Though he drove me up the wall sometimes with his obsessions about certain topics and tendency to take the tiniest critism of his pet topics as a monumental affront, I miss his posts. He has great insight and knowledge about opera and the arts in general. And it was nice to have reports from Paris. Hopefully, he’ll come back.

            • Ok ML I’m here to defend myself. I have no control who La Cieca chooses to moderate. Clita is off moderation — have fun circlejerking him. Oedipe and I had a lot of good convos about many topics — I was NOT the reason he was moderated at all. I believe he was moderated during a Death of Klinghoffer conversation. His period of moderation is over. Camille is not on moderation. If she decided that people in that JDD thread were too mean to her, then whatever, threads have gotten way more heated. Her hate boner for JDD was creepy.

              As for you, you’re awful impertinent to tell La Cieca who needs to be on moderation. It’s her website. I’ve been on moderation before. I’m now off. I don’t get any special treatment other than DVD’s and CD’s La Cieca sends to me via the mail to review.

              So really, shut up.

            • Okay, everyone has had a say now, so let’s drop this topic, shall we?

          • Krunoslav

            “the most sublimest Brunnhilde”

            Edyth Walker, (ya know)

            • Clita del Toro

              There La Poisonette goes again. “Circle jerking,” “hate-boners” ? What is that all about? Penis envy? What a lovely vocabulary. How about Ring Around the Pussy for a change?
              Sorry about this. I really didn’t want to get mixed up in this stuff, but La P can’t let it go. What is her problem?
              I won’t say another word and never respond to La P again.

            • I said, let’s drop it. Next commenter on this subject gets moderated for two weeks.

  • mercadante

    Why does MMII keep talking about the “Only Maria”? Is this a thread about Maria Chiara?

    • Clita del Toro

      No, Maria Tallchief! ;)

      • La Valkyrietta

        Near MMII, Maria Dolores Pradera,

        • marshiemarkII

          Vallky querida how sweet of you, just came back from a Fiesta del Dieciocho at the Instituto Cervantes and they played the same cancion :-)
          Tu Marshie de los Arrabales del Aconcagua

    • Krunoslav

      Here I thought Marshie was taking about Maria Bieshu.

      Metropolitan Opera House
      October 23, 1971 Matinee

      PAGLIACCI {517}

      Nedda……………….Maria Bieshu [Debut & Only Performance]
      Canio……………….James McCracken
      Tonio……………….Cornell MacNeil
      Silvio………………Raymond Gibbs
      Beppe……………….Andrea Velis

      Conductor……………Christopher Keene

  • Milady DeWinter

    If Callas has become an orthodoxy Monty, and I think you are correct, then yes, I believe the adjective would still apply., at least within the specialized area of classical vocal criticism and appreciation. Orthodoxies by nature produce anti-orthodoxies, which are often fervent and very public.

    • Jack Jikes

      Mme Claggart -- can you hear this? You are fervent and public.

      • mrsjohnclaggart

        Well, for you, Jack, I will try again and not presume too much on La Cieca’s hospitality. There are new people here so I won’t mention names except for Milady DeWinter who I think is spot on about orthodoxies. It all bores me now. JJ’s astute handling of the newest pressings makes very good points and that certainly is a place to start.

        I saw Callas too, though I was quite young (not SO young for the 65 Toscas). I am never convinced by the “argument” for acting. Compared to Chaliapin on film or Vishneyskaya, caught late on various video pirates, or even Patricia Brooks, she was only a capable stage performer if one is talking about “acting”. She was responsive to direction clearly, but much less was expected from opera singers at the time, and I for one didn’t think the Tosca as a physical performance was more than a clever “packaging” of a diva in decline.

        As for her singing, there is so much, and it varies so much, I think, that the sort of bobby soxer generalizations made, say by one idiot on Opera-L recently (alas! I have departed there for good, though a kind person forwards me the more astounding assertions of this person), do her no credit. That sort of thing is the same as slobbering on her. And really, on Parterre of all places, who cares about who or what you want to lick? Enjoy the cherry Popsicle (or whatever) but don’t expect ALL to agree with the sublime experience you had in sucking it.

        And I have to wonder about people using Madame Callas to beat up on miracles such as Joan Sutherland, or Miss Lee Price, or the truly amazing Nilsson (no one who saw her Salome or Elektra could have a mind and musicality and be left other than astounded). This is not to aver that these three had no faults, never had bad nights, never attempted roles that didn’t work for them, or with Nilsson and Price went on a bit too long, but only to suggest that they were astounding too. I have a sense (based on knowing John Ardoin very well, and even having had a few short conversations with Madame Callas)that she didn’t like being used that way either.

        On Mrs. Claggart’s FB page recently there was an endless discussion of La gioconda, a quite awful opera that Mrs. Claggart loves with the sorrowing passion of the progenitrix of an “innocente”. The consensus was that Madame Callas’ second recording, when her singing had become quite troubled, in a time where there was much less studio fakery possible, she was overwhelming, transcending not only her own limits, but that of the role, with an amazing insight and retaining enough skill and control, at least on record, to achieve one unforgettable moment after another. It’s like the Masterclass where she sings a bit of “Cortigiani” — astounding — and it’s clear that her voice remained quite responsive given the color she commands and her rhythm. That makes me sad that she didn’t try the song repertoire and some newer music, perhaps written for her. I think I understand why she did some songs sometimes (including “Stormy Weather”, of which Ardoin had a tape) but didn’t want to abandon the “diva” role but I am sure it’s a loss.

        And that’s all I’m going to say. It would be thrilling were the Greek material to turn up (I would love to hear that Fidelio, it was highly praised by musicians who were serious and experienced, and really fully accomplished performances of the role are rare).

        But I don’t feel that everything is really amazing or perfect or without disfiguring compromises and strange choices. And I find bizarre the notion that Italians shouldn’t or can’t sing stylish Mozart. To hear the language fluently and brilliantly pronounced is something Mr. Mozart would have wanted and you don’t have that AT ALL in the “Viennese School”. One can hear Pinza’s wonderful Giovanni (though his voice is much darker than Mozart apparently had in mind, given that the singer he chose for Prague and Vienna later became a tenor) or Siepi’s, the various wonderful performances of Taddei, Bruscantini and singers too little thought of (when the Rome Opera came with the Visconti Figaro to NY and one saw the amazing give and take of a group of Italians who understood every one of da Ponte’s double entendres and sang with full tone even when being delicate), the immense skill, sexual allure and charm of Sciutti (not a pretty sound but a master of line, color and rhythm), Scotto’s fantastic Donna Elvira and Vitellia, Antonacci’s Fiordaligi, and going way back, the incredible elan of Battistini’s “Non piu andrai” and his fantastic Don Giovanni, seductively floated on endless breath, the entire scena that ends with “la ci darem la mano” with Emilia Corsi, every appogiatura in place, marvelous wit and phenomenal give and take in the “duet’s” back and forth (it’s only a true duet at the end). One can extend this to the Latin De Los Angeles, Donna Anna at La Scala (and reportedly great in the role).

        Callas, though not Italian born, would have been a phenomenal Elettra, Vitellia, and in her best days a haunting Fiordaligi and thrilling Donna Anna. And this is too much of me.

        • luvtennis

          VdlA sang Donna Anna! At La Scala? Not to be too crude but how ballsy of her!

        • mjmacmtenor

          With it’s almost absurd range of hi and low notes, I think Callas would have made a fantastic Fiordiligi. What a Come Scoglio that would have been! As to singing in ensembles, who better to partner her as Dorabella than Giuletta Simionato, who starting her career singing Cherubino (among other roles). They certainly had not trouble singing duets in Norma. Based on written reports of Il Turco in Italia, Callas could be quite funny with the right direction and guidance. I think a young Di Stefano would have sung a beautiful Un Aura. Any ideas (Despina, Gugliemo?) to complete this 1950s Italian cast of Cosi?

          • A young Panerai as Gugliemo?

          • Krunoslav

            Despina- Alda Noni early on, Sciutti or Eugenia Ratti later.

        • Tubsinger

          Welcome back, Mrs.

        • The_Kid

          Ah, Mrs. JC. Finally!!!
          However, if you want to inject a degree of sanity into the conversation here, I suspect that you’re too late :) When queenery transcends singers and spills over to the “Grrrrlz(TM)” posting here, voices of sanity would be firmly and quickly silenced.
          Anyhoo, have a great weekend, now, y’hear? My regards to your eminent twin, BTW.

  • luvtennis

    Am I the only person who wishes Maria had been recorded by Decca or RCA instead of EMI. Legge favored such a boxy acoustic and close mic placement that the voice had no space to bloom. That’s why I have a hard time listening to the EMI mono recordings anymore. The stereo recordings are much better but the voice is in decline by then -- even considering such miracles as the late Gioconda and the Mad Scenes from a year or two before.

    Thankfully we have the live recordings which give a much better sense of her voice in my humble opinion.