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

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    Never mind. Post deleted.
    Last edited by gardibolt; Apr-30-2018 at 21:23.
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    It's probably far too late to make any observations, as this has been a dormant thread for quite a while. I was just listening to Norma 1954 in the 1997 (EU) tweak by Simon Gibson. It has less muffled sound than the earlier version(s) of Hardwick's transfer, and none of the harshness of the GROTC 2003/Warner 2014 tweak (no, Warner did not use any nonexistent 'original' analog tapes). But it is disheartening that one must discount anything past 1996 because of a bizarre anomaly in the decision-making at Abbey Road Studios that afflicts no other artist's analog-to-digital transfers: the addition of fake record roar at the beginnings and endings of every disc, act, or silence in between tracks on the recital discs. Head goon Allan Ramsay speaks with deranged pride about this vandalism in the book accompanying the Warner set, but fails to mentions that it had already been used to deface every EMI Callas studio recording from 1997 onward. To my mind, it neutralizes purported benefits of Callas studio material from that time forward. Povera Maria!
    Last edited by RES; May-14-2018 at 20:41.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RES View Post
    It's probably far too late to make any observations, as this has been a dormant thread for quite a while. I was just listening to Norma 1954 in the 1997 (EU) tweak by Simon Gibson. It has less muffled sound than the earlier version(s) of Hardwick's transfer, and none of the harshness of the GROTC 2003/Warner 2014 tweak (no, Warner did not use any nonexistent 'original' analog tapes). But it is disheartening that one must discount anything past 1996 because of a bizarre anomaly in the decision-making at Abbey Road Studios that afflicts no other artist's analog-to-digital transfers: the addition of fake record roar at the beginnings and endings of every disc, act, or silence in between tracks on the recital discs. Head goon Allan Ramsay speaks with deranged pride about this vandalism in the book accompanying the Warner set, but fails to mentions that it had already been used to deface every EMI Callas studio recording from 1997 onward. To my mind, it neutralizes purported benefits of Callas studio material from that time forward. Povera Maria!
    Unfortunately the CE 1954 Norma is one of the few versions that I didn't buy because as a student I always found it too expensive. I started with the GROTC set which to my ears doesn't sound too harsh (they did what they could to hide the overload distortion), but strangely suffocated as if it was recorded in a very tiny airless classroom with a pupils orchestra. In this respect the Warner remastering is an improvement, but here the ensembles sound really harsh and shrill. I must look if I find the Gibson second hand

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    Quote Originally Posted by alanmichael1 View Post
    Unfortunately the CE 1954 Norma is one of the few versions that I didn't buy because as a student I always found it too expensive. I started with the GROTC set which to my ears doesn't sound too harsh (they did what they could to hide the overload distortion), but strangely suffocated as if it was recorded in a very tiny airless classroom with a pupils orchestra. In this respect the Warner remastering is an improvement, but here the ensembles sound really harsh and shrill. I must look if I find the Gibson second hand
    Everyone hears things differently. To me, Ian Jones' 2003 GROTC and the 2014 Warner are virtually identical: distorted, bright, airless, harsh. Also, given their identical timings (minus added silences in Warner and the removed 5-second gap at the LP side 3-4 break in Act I, sc. 2 whose need for removal I published in 2000), there is little question that the Abbey Road guys simply used the GROTC tweak for the Warner set and made slight adjustments. Again, it's the same digital tape initially transferred from some analog source copy Hardwick had in 1985 (not the original tape, which even by then, was dust). The LPs (especially the first pressings, matrices 3N and 4N) have little ambiance but are sweet enough, and the overload isn't very noticeable. The earlier tweaks of the 1985 digital tape add very slight room ambiance. The 1997 CE is more likable and articulate. I suppose that it's worth having if you can get it cheaply. It's certainly more listenable than 2003 or 2014. It's a shame that the original tapes really don't exist, as it would have been nice to try again.
    Last edited by RES; May-15-2018 at 23:04.

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    ^^^ The promo video from Abbey Rd for 2014 Warner shows what appear to be the original master tapes at 3:30 & 4:30 and notes from recording engineers, they describe careful handling of tapes and splices coming apart when playing etc......apparently the original tapes do exist for at least some of the operas, the recording notes have correct original dates but tape/tape box did not have any dates visible, just looked really old.....

    Could be they had to use later tapes for some of the operas if originals were no longer available.....

    If you parse words like a lawyer/politician when Warner/Abbey Rd say boxset was remastered from original tapes, does not say every opera...could just be a couple operas from original tapes

    Last edited by DarkAngel; May-16-2018 at 16:24.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    ^^^ The promo video from Abbey Rd for 2014 Warner shows what appear to be the original master tapes at 3:30 & 4:30 and notes from recording engineers, they describe careful handling of tapes and splices coming apart when playing etc......apparently the original tapes do exist for at least some of the operas, the recording notes have correct original dates but tape/tape box did not have any dates visible, just looked really old.....

    Could be they had to use later tapes for some of the operas if originals were no longer available.....

    If you parse words like a lawyer/politician when Warner/Abbey Rd say boxset was remastered from original tapes, does not say every opera...could just be a couple operas from original tapes
    You are correct. I was not explicit enough. It is the original *mono* tapes that no longer exist. If you will notice, there is no comment about the remastering of those in the coffee table book accompanying the Warner box. There is a possibility that post-Meneghini stereo tapes still exist in some form, and it is these that they worked on. Ever wonder why the stereo operas, from the first, are the best digital transfers?

    Moreover, remember how recorded material was transmitted from the beginning of studio tape recording: analog copies of the tapes were sent to the various EMI branches throughout Europe, the States, and later, Japan for them to make LP stampers. We are lucky that in the first years of EMI, it was copies of the first stampers themselves that were used both for Columbia and Angel. When the stampers wore out, new ones were struck, with changes to suit requirements of whatever phonographs did at the time. Earlier tapes were already a non-issue. Also, recording tape was made of brittle acetate in the 1950s. This stuff, even with the most careful handling, sticks together, breaks easily, and crumbles to powder in a short time, especially with the kind of use such popular recordings had. In the '60s, they used stronger mylar, so something of them may still be around; even here, the notes indicate that they were in bad shape and in need of modern restoration techniques. And given that the transmission even of the stereo recordings was the same as I just described--analog copies and LP stampers sent all over, whatever tapes they used, even for the later recordings are probably not "originals", though perhaps closer to them than any mono recording could ever be. But with the passage of another *thirty years* since the first CDs, the condition of even these later tapes would be badly degraded--again, as they indicated.

    The saddest thing of all is that Callas' greatest art survives in mono, dozens of analog generations away from any extinct "original" tapes. Sure, the Abbey Road guys may have used 24/96 on the DATs but so what? They have been EQing them in nonsensical ways since 1997. At least Hardwick, even working initially with some analog tapes or LP stampers many generations away from the mythical "originals", had an ear and musical discrimination. The same cannot be said for the likes of Warner project leader Allan Ramsay (sad that it wasn't Simon Gibson who has a better ear, if not better editing discrimination)--who has proved his lack of either musical skill or understanding of Callas' sound since 1997.
    Last edited by RES; May-16-2018 at 18:02.

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    Listening to Lisbon Traviata (Pearl, but AV is also fine--especially now that Pearl and EMI 1987 are gone). Most moving, real letter-reading of all: "Curatevi" spoken with such a sense of bitter irony that it tears me to pieces every time.

    I am always struck that here and in CG, Callas' voice, while perilous at the top, still has the spin, firmness, controlled vibrato, solid articulation, velvet middle, and support of her earlier performances, while her studio recordings of later that year, however brilliant musically, have the post-menopausal, strident, less supported Callas sound. I was also interested to read something that Callas said to James Fleetwood in 1959 that I hadn't noticed before in the long interview: she said she wasn't slim but 'skinny' and couldn't put back any of the weight; she intimated that it *had* screwed up her ability to support her voice, contrary to her previous denials. If only she had stopped with the diet in December 1953 or even January 1954, none of the crazy stuff would have happened and we'd have had her in fine shape for perhaps another fifteen years beyond 1957. That she actually did realize it and enunciated it is truly heart-breaking. With that particular "Curatevi", could she have been thinking of herself as she knew that her great voice--her identity--was dissolving?
    Last edited by RES; May-16-2018 at 18:14.

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    It is good fortune we have three great live Traviatas from 1955-58 with La Scala, Lisbon and CG (ROH) all in best available sound thanks to heaven sent AV (ars vocalis aka Milan) to hear a fabulous signature role with great supporting casts......

    Besides the weight issue impacting her voice/career, imagine if Maria could have secured a position at the MET in late 1940s after WWII when she returned home to her father in NYC what a game changer that could have been, instead of all the Mexican tours and assorted venues before La Scala throne was secured with 1952-53 season performances......
    Last edited by DarkAngel; May-16-2018 at 21:02.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    It is good fortune we have three great live Traviatas from 1955-58 with La Scala, Lisbon and CG (ROH) all in best available sound thanks to heaven sent AV (ars vocalis aka Milan) to hear a fabulous signature role with great supporting casts......

    Besides the weight issue imagine if Maria could have secured a position at the MET in late 1940s after WWII when she returned home to her father in NYC what a game changer that could have been, instead of all the Mexican tours and assorted venues before La Scala throne was secured with 1952-53 season performances......
    Personally I'm pleased she had a European career. If she'd ended up at the Met, I think her career would have been much more prosaic. I doubt she'd ever have sung Medea or Anna Bolena, maybe not even Norma. Bing would never have had the foresight to cast her in the repertoire for which she became famous.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregMitchell View Post
    Personally I'm pleased she had a European career. If she'd ended up at the Met, I think her career would have been much more prosaic. I doubt she'd ever have sung Medea or Anna Bolena, maybe not even Norma. Bing would never have had the foresight to cast her in the repertoire for which she became famous.
    Absolutely. The MET of that period did not explore new repertoire or even new productions very much (one of Callas' complaints). What becomes frustrating is that although Italy was in the process of reviving non-standard operas, and not just for Callas, Walter Legge's decisions about recording didn't do enough to reflect it--no complete Anna Bolena, Macbeth, Alceste, Armida, Vespri, etc. And EMI recorded only four things (Lucia, Puritani, Tosca, Cav) before Callas had altered the voice that had made her a sensation in the first place.
    Last edited by RES; May-18-2018 at 00:07.

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    Looking at MET archives during 1950-55 the heavy bel canto roles of Lucia and Norma were strongly featured starting in 1954 season, almost certainly in direct response to Lyric Chicago's magnificent tour de force 54 season with american debut of Maria Callas (in blonde hair)

    R Bing was always playing catch-up allowing NYC native in prime voice to debut at Chicago.........

    54 Norma - Chicago
    Last edited by DarkAngel; May-17-2018 at 20:05.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RES View Post
    Listening to Lisbon Traviata (Pearl, but AV is also fine--especially now that Pearl and EMI 1987 are gone). Most moving, real letter-reading of all: "Curatevi" spoken with such a sense of bitter irony that it tears me to pieces every time.

    I am always struck that here and in CG, Callas' voice, while perilous at the top, still has the spin, firmness, controlled vibrato, solid articulation, velvet middle, and support of her earlier performances, while her studio recordings of later that year, however brilliant musically, have the post-menopausal, strident, less supported Callas sound. I was also interested to read something that Callas said to James Fleetwood in 1959 that I hadn't noticed before in the long interview: she said she wasn't slim but 'skinny' and couldn't put back any of the weight; she intimated that it *had* screwed up her ability to support her voice, contrary to her previous denials. If only she had stopped with the diet in December 1953 or even January 1954, none of the crazy stuff would have happened and we'd have had her in fine shape for perhaps another fifteen years beyond 1957. That she actually did realize it and enunciated it is truly heart-breaking. With that particular "Curatevi", could she have been thinking of herself as she knew that her great voice--her identity--was dissolving?
    I like her voice in the Lisbon Traviata very much, but it's a pity that she misses twice the top notes of the falling scales in "Sempre libera". This doesn't happen in London.
    Last edited by alanmichael1; May-17-2018 at 19:17.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alanmichael1 View Post
    I like her voice in the Lisbon Traviata very much, but it's a pity that she misses twice the top notes of the falling scales in "Sempre libera". This doesn't happen in London.
    She doesn't miss them. She hits the first D-flat and slides to the C, so it's not as clean. But it's in tune (better than anyone else!). On the second one, she sings the D-flat/C very quietly and the mic doesn't pick it up as well, but that's not her problem and the notes are there and quite clean. The voice is firmer. In CG, she does both quietly and cleanly but the voice is thinner. By the way, in hearing the Pearl Lisbon Traviata again, and all those derived from the mis-EQed RDP CRO2 safety tape--Myto, RDP itself, or with attempted corrections like Mike Richter's and Pearl, she really does sound thin and unlike her real sound in that performance. The 1980 LP/1987 CD EMI (more filtered) and pre-EMI A/V (not filtered) from tapes played at the right EQ, reveal her warmer middle voice.
    Last edited by RES; May-17-2018 at 22:34.

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    Has anyone seen the new Callas documentary? I went to the cinema yesterday and was quite impressed. Everything in colour and some interviews I had never seen before. Also great the films snippets from Madama Butterfly and the Paris Normas.

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    Where did you see it? It doesn’t seem to be on anywhere in the UK.
    Last edited by GregMitchell; Jun-04-2018 at 11:27.

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