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Thread: Maria Callas--What performances have the BEST sound quality

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    Default Maria Callas--What performances have the BEST sound quality

    So I am looking for both performances that are well recorded and transfers/masterings/remasterings that provide the best sound quality (over and above considerations of best actual performance if it was not as well recorded). In other words if there is one particular opera, say I Puritani, that has the best sound of anything Maria recorded, that and the several others at the top are what I am looking for. Then within that pool of operas, I am looking for what releases have the better sound.

    An additional factor would be Maria's age when recorded, as I think her younger voice was in some ways better. She sure looks youthful in the cover image of Puritani here.
    Last edited by Fritz Kobus; May-09-2019 at 02:45.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

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    That's a really tricky question! Especially as the recordings in best sound are going to be (usually) the later stereo studio recordings and more of the recordings she made when younger have worse sound. As sound quality is your thing then the best are going to be the studio recordings (which I prefer in the masterings by Warner).

    Here's the complete box set of her studio recordings (well worth it if you can find a good set used):

    CallasW.jpg

    If instead you are wanting to sample just a few of her studio recordings then the following three are all great performances AND have better sound than her others IMO.

    Tosca:
    Callas - Tosca.jpg

    Carmen:
    Callas Carmen.jpg

    Gioconda:
    Callas Gioconda.jpg

    I would then place the stereo Norma and Lucia as the next best in the list in terms of sound.

    N.
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    Last edited by The Conte; May-09-2019 at 14:32.

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    As already mentioned, since the recordings in better sound are generally the later stereo studio ones, it's difficult to recommend younger Callas for the top of the list.

    That said, her mono recordings aren't in bad sound and her 1953-55 recordings have Callas in wonderful voice whilst the sound is good 50s mono and in the case of the famous Tosca very good. I prefer the masterings on Warner of these operas.

    There are also some stereo studio recitals, however Callas is past her best here and there is plenty of other material in good sound I would suggest getting to know first. The one exception to that is the first Paris recital of French arias:

    Callas Paris I.jpg

    I would put the following in my list next (I've left out Cavalleria Rusticana and Aida as I think the sound of those two was a little below par).

    1953
    Tosca
    I Puritani
    Lucia di Lammermoor


    1954
    Il Turco in Italia
    Pagliacci
    La forza del destino
    Puccini arias recital
    Lyric and coloratura arias recital


    1955
    Rigoletto
    Madama Butterfly
    Callas at La Scala recital


    This gives you some of the key Callas portrayals in the best sound now available and makes a good start for a collection.

    N.
    Last edited by The Conte; May-09-2019 at 15:03.

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    For the latest remasterings from the original tapes it's the Callas Remastered from 2014 that you need.

    N.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    I agree with much of what Le Conte says here.

    There is a lot more discussion of sound and sources in this thread New MARIA CALLAS box set......, but there is quite a lot to wade through.

    When it comes to the live performances, hardly any allowances need to be made for the sound on the Berlin Lucia di Lammermoor, which is fortunately also one of her greatest performances. Both Warner and Divina Records are probably the best way to go.





    but you can pick up the Warner much cheaper.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Of the live performances when it comes to the best sound, then the 1964 Covent Garden Tosca is the best IMO. It almost sounds as though it is in stereo on the Warner release from 2017! (However, the sound isn't as good as either studio recording, of course.)

    Callas - Tosca.jpg

    Of the other live recordings other than the Lucia Gregg has already mentioned, the following have good sound and Callas never recorded these in the studio, so these are the recordings with the best sound quality in these roles (apart from some of the arias that were recorded in the studio).

    Poliuto (best on Myto)
    Callas - Poliuto.jpg

    Anna Bolena (don't get the Warner or EMI, Myto is the cheapest with the cleanest sound, also available from Divina records that has the bonus of coming with a pdf booklet with lots of photos and write ups)
    Callas - Bolena.jpg

    Then I can't help myself recommending Pirata as it is such a superb performance from Callas (I like the Warner remaster best, again from 2017)
    Callas - Pirata.jpg

    N.

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    Can someone please direct me to a proper audio of her 1949: Ben io t'invenni / Anch'io dischiuso un giorno

    This must have been the height of her vocal ability. I've listened to a youtube clip and my God, no words. I can hardly imagine being in the audience to witness it myself.


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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jermaine View Post
    Can someone please direct me to a proper audio of her 1949: Ben io t'invenni / Anch'io dischiuso un giorno

    This must have been the height of her vocal ability. I've listened to a youtube clip and my God, no words. I can hardly imagine being in the audience to witness it myself.

    There aren't any really good ones to be honest, but you're right, her Abigaille, the only time she sang the role, is stupendous. I'd probably go for the latest Warner.



    The one on Ars Vocalis is even better apparently, but that may be harder to find.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    There aren't any really good ones to be honest, but you're right, her Abigaille, the only time she sang the role, is stupendous. I'd probably go for the latest Warner.



    The one on Ars Vocalis is even better apparently, but that may be harder to find.


    Thank you very much. I just ordered it.

    I assume she also sang Armida once? I listened to it (1952) in its entirety and she was also in top form here. She hit so many searing high E in full voice in almost every aria. Having listened to Callas' version, I fully understand why this piece is rarely performed. The demand on the voice and the body is diabolic. Even more so than Norma I dare say!

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    There aren't any really good ones to be honest, but you're right, her Abigaille, the only time she sang the role, is stupendous. I'd probably go for the latest Warner.



    The one on Ars Vocalis is even better apparently, but that may be harder to find.
    That is Maria Callas? It does not look like her. Definitely must be from before the crash diet. So, the voice would be exceptionally great, and if the recording quality is decent, this would be a valuable recording.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fritz Kobus View Post
    That is Maria Callas? It does not look like her. Definitely must be from before the crash diet. So, the voice would be exceptionally great, and if the recording quality is decent, this would be a valuable recording.
    Two years after her Italian debut. She would have been 26.

    The recording quality is not at all good, but she is a stupendous Abigaille, even compounding the role's difficulties by adding a top Eb in the duet with Nabucco.

    https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2...o-naples-1949/
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Sep-28-2019 at 11:22.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jermaine View Post


    Thank you very much. I just ordered it.

    I assume she also sang Armida once? I listened to it (1952) in its entirety and she was also in top form here. She hit so many searing high E in full voice in almost every aria. Having listened to Callas' version, I fully understand why this piece is rarely performed. The demand on the voice and the body is diabolic. Even more so than Norma I dare say!
    Yes, the Armida is available on CD, the best version being this one:

    Armida.jpg

    There is a portion of the recording where a voice speaking incredibly slowly can also be heard (I'm not sure how that happened, whether there was a partial overwriting of the tape at a different speed, or whatever). Most issues leave that portion out and it can only be heard in the Myto release above or the one on Divina Records which also comes with a package of computer files that contain various materials relating to the performance.

    The Warner release is in very slightly better sound, but has the usual cut. I have both, but you will be fine to just get the Myto (or track down the Divina if you must have the materials).

    N.

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    For the Nabucco, if you can track it down, the Hardy Classics release has slightly clearer sound than the Warner as it comes from a source that is closer to the original tape. (Although it is quite a close run thing and the Warner is much easier and cheaper to obtain - the Hardy is £110 on Amazon.uk at the moment and it isn't 13 times better than the Warner which is about £8!)

    Nabucco.jpg

    N.
    Last edited by The Conte; Sep-28-2019 at 11:12.

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    One problem with Callas is that the better her voice the worse the sound she was recorded in. I had her Aida with Barbirolli but it was too much of a trial to listen to as the sound was so wretched. The recordings made with EMI from Tosca onwards have acceptable sound and give a good idea of her artistry without putting up with awful sound. The EMI Lucia with Karajan is a great performance but the sound is poor. The later EMI Tosca does not find her in good voice and she has to put up with Pretre's pretty poor conducting. Pity EMI hadn't got Karajan under contract for that one as it might have been something special. I know some people go into raptures about her Carmen but she just doesn't do it for me as she doesn't sound right. If I were Jose I'd be running for my life!

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    One problem with Callas is that the better her voice the worse the sound she was recorded in.
    That has been the problem for me.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

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