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Thread: Maria Callas and Trills

  1. #16
    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    It sometimes annoys me then that people will say Radvanovsky, for instance, is as great a Norma as Callas. From what I've seen and heard (on youtube), I would agree that she is an appreciable Norma and probably the best we have today. But I would also have to say her coloratura is nowhere near so accurate as that of Ponselle, Callas or Sutherland, let alone Caballé.
    I’ve never though Caballe was a paragon of accuracy in coloratura.

  2. #17
    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    Didn't Callas's technical difciences arise from a lack of breath support caused by her important weight loss in 1954 instead of, as you seem to imply in your post, an improper technique? I believe that she did not lose her technique, but lost her voice, and that the vibrato issues were often out of her control. She tried to resolve them so many times by asking Schwarzkopf and De Hidalgo but could not because she had lost so much strength in her breathing muscles (one loses a great deal of muscles when losing weight as suddenly as she did). If you listen to recordings of Callas before 1954, her vibrato is under control and all the voice is properly supported.
    Even in earlier Callas recordings you can hear a widening of the vibrato as she goes up the scale. It's less apparent, but it's there.
    Take Vissi d'arte from the famous De Sabata Tosca of 1953. For all its commendable qualities, the high note on "signore" has too wide of a vibrato so that it sounds sharp to me, as do the following notes though less so.

    Or take the high c on "quel lama gli piantai nel cor" in Act III. How bothersome this is depends both on personal taste (vibrato problems really hamper my enjoyment of singing), and also on the composition. Tosca has a lot of consistently high writing which makes it hard for me to appreciate her performance. Other roles that hang out in the middle and lower register more I enjoy her much more in. What I don't like is when, say, Anthony Tommasini points out these issues as characterization, as though the fact that she sounds like she's having difficulty with the singing equals artistic expression because it's a difficult moment for Tosca or whatever. That's just not true and it misses Callas' real art, which lies in her use of shading between the strong middle head voice and dark chest voice, as well as her accomplishment with runs, ornaments etc..

    I honestly don't know whether such a weight loss could cause that specific issue. I've heard it suggested before, but I don't know. I do know that Cornelius Reid says that a wobble is often a problem of registration, and can be corrected with adjustments to the registration. (He says that a wobble is generally associated with tonal problems in the upper middle and high notes, which tracks with Callas. Apparently the wobble is closer to vocal health than the caprino, as it is a free but overburdened sound, which, again, tracks with Callas. She was certainly much, much better off technically than, say, Bellincioni or Mazzoleni or early Cigna.). I'm sure she did try very hard to resolve the problem and I wish she had been able to find somebody who could help her do it. She obviously had a very strong technique in many areas, since she was capable of very impressive agility, which doesn't come without technical accomplishment in tonal production (again supporting Reid's claim that wobble can still be a released sound).

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  4. #18
    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Parsifal98 View Post
    Didn't Callas's technical difciences arise from a lack of breath support caused by her important weight loss in 1954 instead of, as you seem to imply in your post, an improper technique? I believe that she did not lose her technique, but lost her voice, and that the vibrato issues were often out of her control. She tried to resolve them so many times by asking Schwarzkopf and De Hidalgo but could not because she had lost so much strength in her breathing muscles (one loses a great deal of muscles when losing weight as suddenly as she did). If you listen to recordings of Callas before 1954, her vibrato is under control and all the voice is properly supported. She was then singing everything that the composer wrote. I mean, listen to her Armida, to her 1952 Tosca in Mexico, to her Il Trovatore and Medea in 1953 at la Scala. She then possessed an instrument which could do anything and I think it is the reason why she is often presented as being supreme. She was the last soprano able to compete with the singers you have presented above, and is closer to us than them.

    I have overcome my prejudices and realized that Callas voice did not get immediately bad after the weight loss either. As late as 55 she was doing amazing singing, even if the upper extension was not all that it was before she lost weight. Her declining vocal gifts were a gradual thing for some odd reason. Maybe force of will. The odd thing with Dame Joan is that although the voice got bigger after 40, her vocal dexterity did not seem to suffer. Sutherland's voice got bigger while Callas' got smaller as they both aged.

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  6. #19
    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAS View Post
    I’ve never though Caballe was a paragon of accuracy in coloratura.
    Nor I. She could be a bit hit and miss. She could trill but she wasn't consistent and her coloratura could be lighty aspirated, but, at her peak, she could at least get round the notes.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  8. #20
    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Parsifal98 View Post
    Didn't Callas's technical difciences arise from a lack of breath support caused by her important weight loss in 1954 instead of, as you seem to imply in your post, an improper technique? I believe that she did not lose her technique, but lost her voice, and that the vibrato issues were often out of her control.
    That's one theory, but there are others too, including early onset of the menopause. A lack of stamina due to the rigorous diet she subjected herself too could also have taken its toll. After all, we knew far less about nutrition in those days.

    I agree thought that she didn't lose her technique. Even in those late Verdi recordings, her legato is still well nigh perfect and she can sing a smooth downward chromatic scale, as she does in Elena's Arrigo! Ah parli a un core, wuth every note cleanly articulated. Arroyo, on the complete Levine recording, just slithers down the scale.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  10. #21
    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    That's one theory, but there are others too, including early onset of the menopause. A lack of stamina due to the rigorous diet she subjected herself too could also have taken its toll. After all, we knew far less about nutrition in those days.

    I agree thought that she didn't lose her technique. Even in those late Verdi recordings, her legato is still well nigh perfect and she can sing a smooth downward chromatic scale, as she does in Elena's Arrigo! Ah parli a un core, wuth every note cleanly articulated. Arroyo, on the complete Levine recording, just slithers down the scale.
    I read that Callas ate mostly meat and vegetables (almost like the Keto diet today) and would pick things from others’ plates. If she had early menopause (no reason to doubt Meneghini’s account), that could account for some changes in the voice as her body’s chemistry (?) changed. Soprano Carol Nebblet opined: “a woman sings with her ovaries.” There certainly was a change in the voice in 1954. You can tell by the recordings of that year, studio and live.

    A parallel exists in the changes to Deborah Voigt’s voice after the surgery. The voice’s heft became slimmer, the luscious sound turned slender and metallic. What used to be creamy in tone, became acidulous. She did not sound “glorious,” as Renee Fleming told a magazine, citing Voigt’s voice after the surgery vis à vis Callas’ weight loss (meaning Fleming did not believe Callas’s voice was unduly affected after the weight loss)

    There was also a loss in volume in Voigt’s voice. Listening to The Ring Cycle’s Brünhildes after the surgery, one notes that Voigt is no longer able to easily negotiate some of the phrases on both ends of her compass. Top notes are more difficult to emit, and the bottom of the voice is less sonorous, as if the resonance has shifted. Voigt herself has said that she now has to remember to breathe and engage certain muscles that before the surgery were automatic because she learned to sing with the fat body and the weight helped to support her breath.
    Last edited by MAS; Yesterday at 10:11.

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