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Thread: New MARIA CALLAS box set......

  1. #1801
    Senior Member Diminuendo's Avatar
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    I'm not an expert, but I think this categorizing is just ridiculous. The only thing that matters to me if the singer can sing the part successfully. I think that Verdi really benefits from singers like Callas or Gobbi who dig deep in to the text and the music. I just don't think that any part in any opera should be thought like this. Different voices bring different things to a role. Of course there are roles that suit a singer better than others. But to say that you have to have a certain timbre to sing a role is to me ridiculous. I think that today we just want to categorize everything and this just goes too far.
    "First I sing loud. When I start to run out of breath I sing softer" Giuseppe Di Stefano on his Faust high c diminuendo

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I thought it was a interesting. Point. Just how big was Callas' voice? I never heard her live of course. I know she sang Wagner in her youth but did the voice get smaller with age rather than larger?
    As to critics I thought Farr's point was worth raising as he has produced some good work on Verdi and his times. We know of course that critics are to be taken with a pinch!
    I think there can be no question as to the size of Callas's voice in her early days. Sutherland referred to it as colossal and Tebaldi commented on how it was incredible that such a large voice had such flexibility. The voice did get smaller after she lost weight but remained a fairly large instrument until at least the 1950s. It certainly still sounds pretty large in the live "Un Ballo in Maschera" from La Scala in 1957 when she is singing with such voluminous voices as Simionato and Bastianini.

    I would aver, however, that Callas was actually the perfect Verdi soprano judged simply on the wide range of Verdi soprano roles she sang successfully from Abigaille to Aida, taking in along the way, Lady Macbeth, Gilda, both Leonoras, Violetta, Elena, Amelia and Elisabetta de Valois, all of which she sang on stage, not just in the studio. Could Leontyne Price have sung Abigaille or Violetta or Gilda? Doubtful I'd say. Tebaldi did sing Violetta but she used to transpose "sempre libera" and her coloratura was sketchy to say the least. She only sang the Trovatore Leonora in the studio, apparently because the role lay too high for her. Gilda would have been unthinkable.

    As Plumblossom states, Farr is labouring under the (common) misapprehension that Verdi demands a large, voluminous voice, but sometimes this also results in a lack of what Callas called "souplesse" and a glossing over of some of the role's more intricate vocal detail.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Farr......has produced some good work on Verdi and his times.....
    Would you like to enlighten us, DavidA, as to whether Farr has published anything (i.e. any well-researched book or a peer-reviewed journal article?) on Verdi, beyond that 4-part online Verdi Conspectus on MusicWeb? There must be something that we are not aware of.

    RES has at least published scholarly articles in the Opera Quarterly, a highly-recognized peer-reviewed journal in the academic scholarship on various aspects of opera.

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    The idea of a 'Verdi soprano' is altogether absurd. Which Verdi: 'coloratura' Verdi, 'lyric' Verdi, 'dramatic' Verdi? Traviata is well-known to require all three, one per act. Callas, to the end of her great years in 1958, was the only soprano capable of carrying it off with that level of perfection. As GregMitchell points out, she was unchallenged in Verdi that called for any of these vocal 'types'. And yes, her colossal voice (Sutherland's and Bonynge's word in 1952) shrank as she continued to lose weight, but was always big--not that it matters. Callas herself was astute enough to have said that in the 19th century, there were 'just sopranos--not heavy or light or...' and that singers were expected to sing everything. Even as late as the 1920s-30s, this idea was still alive in singers like Giannina Arangi-Lombardi, who sang Lucrezia Borgia, Aida, and Santuzza; and even Tetrazzini, the great coloratura, who also sang Amelia and Aida. I need hardly mention Raisa and Ponselle. So a 'Verdi soprano' should be able... to sing Verdi! Yet, how interesting that from the 1940s, singers became so limited that artificial categories were utilized to explain their deficiencies so as not to dismiss them altogether. That the flexibility of Callas, the true Verdian, should seem so unusual in this regard only indicates the decay of opera as it had been known. Tebaldi or Price as Gilda, or heaven forbid, Lady M or Abigaille--the latter two of which require coloratura *as well as* 'big' voices? And how interesting that even flexible Dame Joan never got to Lady M, Abigaille, Forza Leonora. Sills as... anything but Gilda and a rather unsatisfyingly lightweight Violetta? Categorization has more to do with accepting singers' problems than anything else. After the 1970s, there's something of a black hole in real singing that darkens as the years proceed. And people complain about Callas?!
    Last edited by RES; Aug-25-2015 at 23:26.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panorama View Post
    Dear DavidA: Such critical clichés should be treated with a pinch of salt. The most seasoned Callas fans are just getting sick and tired of them and very few, if any, will take them seriously. These clichés would even be seen as jokes. On your part, you end up wasting your precious energy and time reading the clichés, posting them here and waiting for responses.

    From your previous postings, it seems that you yourself are quite able to appreciate her true worth and I believe you are able to form your own independent views of her artistry and musicianship, and not misled by those morons who write clichés for their living (sadly many people still seem to take those rubbishes as informed opinions).
    In that case why not simply close down TC as it is based on people giving opinions just the same as these pundits do? If we are all so decided (and correct) in our opinions then why even listen to others whose opinions happen to differ from ours? I was actually hoping for some informed opinion on the size of Callas' voice, which I have. But please don't call someone a 'moron' because he expresses an opinion you don't agree with. Discussion is all about recognising someone's right to their opinion - even on Callas.
    Last edited by DavidA; Aug-25-2015 at 18:09.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by plumblossom View Post
    In undergraduate social sciences and humanities classes, we have been taught to look at the so-called pundits critically.

    Like the rest of us, Farr could only know about Teresa Stolz's singing through written accounts and doesn't have any (aural) idea at all about how she sounded like. His idea and conceptualization of "what constitutes a true Verdi spinto soprano" is based on critical and public acceptance of voices like Destinn, Ponselle, Muzio, Milanov, Tebaldi, L. Price and Arroyo as the acknowledged standard, one that has been gradually building up in the music-appreciating public and critical spheres over the past 100 years or so. Such conceptualization, however, should not be unquestioned, as it seems to assume and pre-determine that only a particular voice type is the standard for late-middle and late period Verdi. But we should note that during Verdi's lifetime, voices were significantly less categorized than they have been over the 20th century and beyond. Moreover, such "True Verdi soprano = opulent spinto voices of the Ponselle, Milanov and L. Price etc. type" conception (or misconception if one wants to look at it really critically) over-stresses the size, amplitude and timbral texture of voice at the expense of considerations on musicianship i.e. how accurately and precisely a singer realizes Verdi's score and the ideas and deeper meanings underlying the markings of the musical score and the text of the libretto. If we could try to de-emphasize the "size, amplitude and timbral" factor and re-centre the "musicianship" factor in our analysis, then we will find that at least much of Farr and many other critics' view of "Callas is not a Verdi soprano" at least needs to be questioned.

    If critics and pundits like Farr remain inflexible and decide that they would live forever on their (mis)conceptions without re-examining their own views critically, then we can only treat their writings on Callas as clichés that are not worth any serious attention at all.
    Can I just say that as a trained scientist and historian I also have been taught to be critical of opinion. the reason for quoting Farr's comments was not that I agree with them but to promote discussion on the subject of the amplitude of Callas' voice. The fact you have given the above reply indicates you take Farr's remarks seriously, if only to disagree with them!

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  12. #1807
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by plumblossom View Post
    Would you like to enlighten us, DavidA, as to whether Farr has published anything (i.e. any well-researched book or a peer-reviewed journal article?) on Verdi, beyond that 4-part online Verdi Conspectus on MusicWeb? There must be something that we are not aware of.

    RES has at least published scholarly articles in the Opera Quarterly, a highly-recognized peer-reviewed journal in the academic scholarship on various aspects of opera.
    I have no idea. I simply quoted him to get people's opinions on the matter - which I am grateful that they have expressed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Top give you something to chew on. Robert J Farr in his review of Un Ballo in Maschera for music-web international says of Callas:

    "Recorded in 1956 it was the last of five Verdi roles she recorded in the studio for the Columbia label, now part of EMI Classics. Like her recordings of Aida, and the Il Trovatore and Forza del Destino Leonoras, it shows her voice to be really a size too small and vocally inconsistent in the spinto aspect of these roles. That she could, and did, inflect insights into the facets and dilemmas of the characters she was portraying is indisputable and views of these virtues over vocal drawbacks must be personal."

    Any thoughts?
    How can Farr tell the size of Callas' voice from a studio recording? What is a 'Verdi soprano'? Would she be able to sing both Abigaile and Gilda? And not sound out of place as either? Farr's comment can't be taken seriously.

    I don't understand the myth of the Verdi soprano. Some Verdi soprano parts are best suited to a lyric soprano (Gilda, Desdemona, Alice Ford, Nanetta, Oscar) and some to a dramatic (Elisabetta, the Leonoras, Abigaile and Lady Macbeth). Verdi's soprano roles are too varied to expect one singer to be able to sing them all. After all, who has been able to sing a convincing Lady Macbeth AND Gilda? Oh, wait a moment...

    N.

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    Senior Member anniefischerfan's Avatar
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    Amina.jpg
    Pasta as Amina in the 1831 world premiere of La Sonnambula

    Anna Bolena.jpg
    Pasta as Anna in the 1830 world premiere of Anna Bolena

    Norma.jpg
    Pasta in the title role in the 1831 world premiere of Norma

    With the TC Most Recommended Opera CDs and DVDs thread voting on LA SONNAMBULA on-going, it may be a good idea to bring up the subject of Giuditta Pasta (1797 - 1865), considered one of the greatest sopranos of the 19th century and the creator of the roles of Norma, Amina and Anna Bolena. Bellini and Donizetti composed these operas especially for her.

    In his book The Callas Legacy, John Ardoin cited a remark made on Pasta's voice by a contemporary observer (Stendhal) in 1824 and opined that Stendhal's observation could be applied fully to Callas:

    "She can achieve perfect resonance on a note as low as bottom A, and can rise as high as C#, or even to a slightly sharpened D; and she possesses the rare ability to be able to sing contralto as easily as she can sing soprano. I would suggest ... that the true designation of her voice is mezzo-soprano, and any composer who writes for her should use the mezzo-soprano range for the thematic material of his music, while still exploiting, as it were incidentally and from time to time, notes which lie within the more peripheral areas of this remarkably rich voice. Many notes of this last category are not only extremely fine in themselves, but have the ability to produce a kind of resonant and magnetic vibration, which, through some still unexplained combination of physical phenomena, exercises an instantaneous and hypnotic effect upon the soul of the spectator.

    This leads to the consideration of one of the most uncommon features of Madame Pasta's voice: it is not all moulded from the same metallo, as it is said in Italy (which is to say that it possesses more than one timbre); and this fundamental variety of tone produced by a single voice affords one of the richest veins of musical expression which the artistry of a great cantatrice is able to exploit. A large number of other outstanding singers of the old school long ago demonstrated how easily an apparent defect might be transformed into a source of infinite beauty, and how it might be used to bring about a most fascinating touch of originality. In fact, the history of the art might tend to suggest that it is not the perfectly pure, silvery voice, impeccably accurate in tone throughout every note of the compass, which lends itself into the greatest achievements of impassioned singing. No voice whose timbre is completely incapable of variation can ever produce that kind of opaque, or as it were, suffocated tone, which is at once so moving and so natural in the portrayal of certain instants of violent emotion and passionate anguish."


    What's your thoughts on Ardoin's viewpoint?

    Here is a very well-researched book (584 pages) on Pasta, Giuditta Pasta: A Life on the Lyric Stage by Kenneth Stern:
    http://www.operanostalgia.be/html/Pasta.html
    Last edited by anniefischerfan; Aug-26-2015 at 16:09.

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    Senior Member Azol's Avatar
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    By the way, does anyone know when arsvocalis is coming back to EBay? Recent voting in Top 100 Operas thread scratched that itch again... must... get... more...

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    Senior Member anniefischerfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Azol View Post
    By the way, does anyone know when arsvocalis is coming back to EBay? Recent voting in Top 100 Operas thread scratched that itch again... must... get... more...
    arsvocalis is now settling down in a new location and a new full-time job position, so it would be a matter of at least a few months before he goes back to ebay selling again.

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    Senior Member Headphone Hermit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    In that case why not simply close down TC as it is based on people giving opinions just the same as these pundits do? If we are all so decided (and correct) in our opinions then why even listen to others whose opinions happen to differ from ours? I was actually hoping for some informed opinion on the size of Callas' voice, which I have. But please don't call someone a 'moron' because he expresses an opinion you don't agree with. Discussion is all about recognising someone's right to their opinion - even on Callas.
    Are you the same DavidA who has repeatedly dismissed and who has frequently denigrated the opinions of critics - especially when it differs from your own tastes?

    (I am not suggesting that I recall you using this term 'moron' - but I do remember you being very forthright in your dismissal of some critics as if their profession was little more than quackery)
    "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." Berlioz, 1856

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    Quote Originally Posted by Headphone Hermit View Post
    Are you the same DavidA who has repeatedly dismissed and who has frequently denigrated the opinions of critics - especially when it differs from your own tastes?

    (I am not suggesting that I recall you using this term 'moron' - but I do remember you being very forthright in your dismissal of some critics as if their profession was little more than quackery)
    Calm down please. As far as I am able to understand, DavidA has explained very clearly that he was just trying to bring up an issue that he is curious about (the amplitude of Callas' post-diet voice and the soprano roles in middle-late and late Verdi operas) for discussion and moreover this does not mean that he agrees with the critic Robert Farr. It's all very simple and there is no need at all to read too much into this.

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    Senior Member Headphone Hermit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by plumblossom View Post
    Calm down please.
    How kind of you to profer such advice - unnecessary as it is.
    "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." Berlioz, 1856

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Headphone Hermit View Post
    Are you the same DavidA who has repeatedly dismissed and who has frequently denigrated the opinions of critics - especially when it differs from your own tastes?

    (I am not suggesting that I recall you using this term 'moron' - but I do remember you being very forthright in your dismissal of some critics as if their profession was little more than quackery)
    Yes you remember correctly that I do challenge the work of some critics. However, I try to do it without name calling. But I really can't see what people are getting so heated about. I quoted someone as a point of discussion as I wanted to find out what people thought. People are sharing their thoughts. My opinion on critics is irrelevant to this discussion.
    Last edited by DavidA; Aug-26-2015 at 15:16.

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