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Lyric and Coloratura Arias

Book by Ginger Dellenbaugh, published by Bloomsbury Academic, 2022, 146 pages

This is a little gem of a book written by trained opera singer and music historian Ginger Dellenbaugh who is based in New York City and Vienna, Austria. It is part of a series entitled “33 1/3” in which each volume of about 150 pages is devoted to a single classic LP record. There are currently 161 of these books. Interestingly, 160 of the books are dedicated to classic rock, jazz, folk and pop albums. This is the first given over to a classic opera recital - perhaps reflecting Callas’s status as not only a musical giant but a cultural icon.

This is one of my favourite Callas recitals and one of the first that I bought as a teenager. With my modest adolescent income, I bought a very fine French LP pressing of Lyric and Coloratura Arias. I’ve listened to this album for 48 years and every time I listen, it is never stale and I hear some new revelation. Evidence of a truly immortal long playing record.

Dellenbaugh hinges her analysis of this great vinyl on her thorough knowledge of the mechanics of operatic vocal production. From there, she broadens the scope to look at the historical context of the music as well as Callas’s performance of it. And beyond that, Dellenbaugh looks at this recital in relation to Callas’s personal life as well as the broad social, cultural, mass media and political influences impacting a woman of her generation in a stratospheric musical career.

For example, Dellenbaugh, in relation to mass media, discusses the use of the Callas singing voice in movie soundtracks and takes on the Callas hologram in particular: “Separating Callas from her ensemble [for a hologram] transforms the voice into a collage object, one element in the construct of a creepy deep fake….The very totality of the hologram, paradoxically, runs counter to the effect that it would presume to evoke - this is not, and will never be, Callas.” (Pages 63-65).

The aria from Mephistophele, L’altra notte, is one that has captivated me and Dellenbaugh describes it as such: “The delivery of this aria is so seamless that words seem inadequate to describe what Callas is doing here. Her voice fluctuates from cold, to hot, to scalding, from sweet to ugly to extreme….In my ear, the recording is inviolable. It pulls me in completely, and I have a feeling, against my own logic, of being overpowered…it pulls me in like a vortex….” (Pages 70-72).

This little volume is a good antidote for the crowds of gossipy, if not trashy tomes out there. Most importantly, Dellenbaugh anchors her examination to a knowledge and appreciation of the Callas technical mastery: “while listening to these tracks I am overwhelmingly aware of Callas’s masterful command of vocal technique. Even when it may seem that she is channeling some force beyond her control, Callas is a virtuosic vocal craftsman, a fact too often overlooked in biographies that attribute the uncanny power of performances to emotional and biographical extremes.” (Page xii).

Apparently because of space limitations, Dellenbaugh unfortunately does not fully examine the last aria on the album, Verdi’s Mercé, dilette amiche from Vespri Siciliani. Full texts and translations are included for all the other arias on the disc. These are Dellenbaugh’s own translations of the text of each. No CD of the recital is included with this volume, but the book could well be packaged as a great companion to the CD or even the reissued LP.

I recommend this book.

Paul Houle
Vancouver
Thanks for the review, Paul. I am now really keen to get the book. It's a shame that there is no analysis of her elegantly breezy performance of the Vespri aria, but no doubt worth acquiring for the rest.

Incidentally I first got to know the recital in two halves as they were issued as the final sides of the fake stereo issues of Rigoletto and Il Trovatore. That would havebeen in 1975, so I guess I've lived with this wonderful recital even longer than you have now.
 
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70 years ago today, on April 26, 1952, Callas sang Armida by Rossini at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino - a recording was preserved, though in rather primitive sound. The best remastering is the one provided by Divina Records. I append the fiendishly difficult aria, “d’amor al dolce impero,” though I’m not sure the YouTube video is taken from Divina’s issue:

 

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70 years ago today, on April 26, 1952, Callas sang Armida by Rossini at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino - a recording was preserved, though in rather primitive sound. The best remastering is the one provided by Divina Records. I append the fiendishly difficult aria, “d’amor al dolce impero,” though I’m not sure the YouTube video is taken from Divina’s issue:

The sound on this set is pretty awful, to be sure, but at least we have recorded evidence. This is the most phenomenal dramatic coloratura ever set down for posterity. If the recording didn't exist you honestly wouldn't believe it possible. No other singer has come within a mile.
 

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Callas in Copenhagen

Callas embarked on a tour of “monster concerts” (Ardoin) in May and June of 1963, which started in Germany, included London and Paris - recordings exist - and ended in Copenhagen. The arias sung were basically the same as in other cities on the tour. This last concert of the tour was also preserved in sound, but in this video it is not complete. I had not run across this recording before.
 

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I have to comment on that last statement. To class Volf with Divina and Arsvocalis is the ultimate irony. Volf obtained a good deal of original film material from Pablo Berruti, contracting to trade for other material--both video and audio. Volf never delivered. Pablo finally got one thing--not what he initially contracted for--and could only obtain it when a relative was in Paris and literally pried it from Volf. Pablo then learned that Volf has a history of cheating people out of source materials. Arsvocalis has also been cheated by Volf, though he's more philosophical about it. Pablo is still rightfully furious. No matter how good the film may or may not be, I have boycotted it in support of the true Callas scholars who have been ill-used. Volf is known to be dishonest and an opportunist. He is not a musician nor a music historian or scholar of Callas the transcendent musician. He used her for his own 'glory' (the word Callas would have used). And do we really need to revisit late material about Callas again and again? If there was new material pertaining to her real career as great artist 1947-57, that would be something wonderful. Sadly, little exists. To rehash her bad personal choices is a mistake and a disservice to her. Everyone already knows more of her biography than she would ever have wanted or thought relevant to music. The kinescope concerts themselves, all past her great years (with Paris 12/58 just on the edge), can be seen/heard independently without colorization.
 

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Listened again some parts of the Divina release of I puritani. So happy that they released this. The sound is so much better than other releases. Watched again the short clip of the 1964 Tosca act II from Divina's YouTube page. I'm pretty sure that I can write for all of us that we would all be pretty ecstatic when Divina hopefully someday finally releases it. The sound and picture quality in the short part of vissi d'arte is so good. Would be so nice to enjoy Maria and Tito in hd.
 

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Listened again some parts of the Divina release of I puritani. So happy that they released this. The sound is so much better than other releases. Watched again the short clip of the 1964 Tosca act II from Divina's YouTube page. I'm pretty sure that I can write for all of us that we would all be pretty ecstatic when Divina hopefully someday finally releases it. The sound and picture quality in the short part of vissi d'arte is so good. Would be so nice to enjoy Maria and Tito in hd.
I agree. Unfortunately, Pablo Berruti is now reluctant to issue any more of his painstakingly produced recordings because others have appropriated his work and released them under their own label (can you say Myto?). He is so discouraged he will probably never release any more of them. Even his work on the Maria Callas Museum has ceased, and I don’t know why.
A great pity.
 

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Great pity about Divina Records (Diminuendo: Perhaps you meant to click the sad reaction emoji rather than 'like').

BUT here's a good news: High Definition Tape Transfers (HDTT - https://www.highdeftapetransfers.ca), an Canada-based online label/retailer of historical recordings transferred from its collection of 2 & 4 track open reel tapes, has announced that it will release what it claims to be the first complete release of Callas' 1963 Copenhagen concert, which, according to HDTT, is transferred from "original tape" of the concert.

So far, only the ad is shown. Hopefully more details will emerge soon (apparently the ad got the wardrobe wrong - the picture shows Callas in the 1959 London Royal Festival Hall concert).



Website: https://www.highdeftapetransfers.ca/pages/maria-callas-copenhagen

As with all other releases from this label/retailer, the recording will be made available in different formats of digital download as well as custom-made CDs.

HDTT runs site-wide sale (10%-15% discount) a number of times each year, so if you wish to get it cheaper, do look out for the sales.
 

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Great pity about Divina Records (Diminuendo: Perhaps you meant to click the sad reaction emoji rather than 'like').

BUT here's a good news: High Definition Tape Transfers (HDTT - https://www.highdeftapetransfers.ca), an Canada-based online label/retailer of historical recordings transferred from its collection of 2 & 4 track open reel tapes, has announced that it will release what it claims to be the first complete release of Callas' 1963 Copenhagen concert, which, according to HDTT, is transferred from "original tape" of the concert.

So far, only the ad is shown. Hopefully more details will emerge soon (apparently the ad got the wardrobe wrong - the picture shows Callas in the 1959 London Royal Festival Hall concert).



Website: https://www.highdeftapetransfers.ca/pages/maria-callas-copenhagen

As with all other releases from this label/retailer, the recording will be made available in different formats of digital download as well as custom-made CDs.

HDTT runs site-wide sale (10%-15% discount) a number of times each year, so if you wish to get it cheaper, do look out for the sales.
I have one of their discs, a superb re-mastering of a disc of Schmitt's Psalm 47 and La Tragédie de Salomé. I'll look forward to this release.
 

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Great pity about Divina Records (Diminuendo: Perhaps you meant to click the sad reaction emoji rather than 'like').

BUT here's a good news: High Definition Tape Transfers (HDTT - https://www.highdeftapetransfers.ca), an Canada-based online label/retailer of historical recordings transferred from its collection of 2 & 4 track open reel tapes, has announced that it will release what it claims to be the first complete release of Callas' 1963 Copenhagen concert, which, according to HDTT, is transferred from "original tape" of the concert.

So far, only the ad is shown. Hopefully more details will emerge soon (apparently the ad got the wardrobe wrong - the picture shows Callas in the 1959 London Royal Festival Hall concert).



Website: https://www.highdeftapetransfers.ca/pages/maria-callas-copenhagen

As with all other releases from this label/retailer, the recording will be made available in different formats of digital download as well as custom-made CDs.

HDTT runs site-wide sale (10%-15% discount) a number of times each year, so if you wish to get it cheaper, do look out for the sales.
This is good news, as the YouTube video posted above in post 5284 is incomplete.
 

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This is good news, as the YouTube video posted above in post 5284 is incomplete.
Great pity about Divina Records (Diminuendo: Perhaps you meant to click the sad reaction emoji rather than 'like').

BUT here's a good news: High Definition Tape Transfers (HDTT - https://www.highdeftapetransfers.ca), an Canada-based online label/retailer of historical recordings transferred from its collection of 2 & 4 track open reel tapes, has announced that it will release what it claims to be the first complete release of Callas' 1963 Copenhagen concert, which, according to HDTT, is transferred from "original tape" of the concert.

So far, only the ad is shown. Hopefully more details will emerge soon (apparently the ad got the wardrobe wrong - the picture shows Callas in the 1959 London Royal Festival Hall concert).



Website: https://www.highdeftapetransfers.ca/pages/maria-callas-copenhagen

As with all other releases from this label/retailer, the recording will be made available in different formats of digital download as well as custom-made CDs.

HDTT runs site-wide sale (10%-15% discount) a number of times each year, so if you wish to get it cheaper, do look out for the sales.
I'm not sure about the accuracy of the description "First Complete release" because in the Maria Callas annal perfomances by Frank Hamilton the Copenhagen recital started with the Semiramide aria "Bel raggio lusinghier" and did not include as an encore the aria "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schichi.
Moreover the program was exactly the same as in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, London cities on the same tour. Only in London and Paris she sung as encore the Gianni Schichi aria, but in Paris the program was quite different (Semiramide-La Cenerentola-Manon-Werher-Nabucco-La Boheme-Madama Butterfly)
 

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I'm not sure about the accuracy of the description "First Complete release" because in the Maria Callas annal perfomances by Frank Hamilton the Copenhagen recital started with the Semiramide aria "Bel raggio lusinghier" and did not include as an encore the aria "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schichi.
Moreover the program was exactly the same as in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, London cities on the same tour. Only in London and Paris she sung as encore the Gianni Schichi aria, but in Paris the program was quite different (Semiramide-La Cenerentola-Manon-Werher-Nabucco-La Boheme-Madama Butterfly)
I'm actually not sure as well whether it is really "the first complete release" of the 1963 Copenhagen concert as claimed by HDTT, that's why I put "what it claims to be" in post #5290 to imply that there is room for doubt. The HDTT ad has apparently left out the Semiramide aria.

In any case, I don't intend to get this and anyone who has seen the ad is best advised to proceed with caution and wait for further info from HDTT, which usually provides a track listing on the webpage of each of its releases.
 

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More on the Callas Copenhagen concert, June 9, 1963

According to the authoritative Performance Annals by Arthur Germond which were included in Henry Wisneski’s Maria Callas: The Art Behind the Legend (Doubleday, 1975) Callas sang the following five items at the Falconer Centret, Copenhagen on June 9, 1963:

Semiramide - Bel raggio
Norma - Casta Diva
Nabucco - Ben io t’invenni
Bohème - Quando m’en vo
Madama Butterfly - Con onor muore

I have the CD of what appears to be the first release of Copenhagen. This is The Callas Edition, Volume Five (3 CDs), IMC Music Ltd., 1998, CED 100345, Belgium. The sound quality is clear mono, but the concert is missing the Semiramide.

Ars Vocalis has released a sensational FM stereo broadcast tape of Callas’s June 5, 1963 Paris concert. This is genuine stereo live Callas. Listen to this with headphones in particular, and you will feel that you are sitting in the first row directly in front of Callas. The release on AV 5663-2 includes original radio announcements as well as overtures and intermezzi that were performed in between Callas’s arias. Again, when listening through headphones, you get an almost binaural quality and I have the sensation of being surrounded by a live audience with Callas in front of me. It is wonderful to hear Callas and the orchestra-only selections with such great sound quality, particularly after hearing June 5, 1963 in more muffled mono releases for years (including on EMI). Unfortunately, Warner legally blocked Decca from releasing these original stereo tapes of June 5, 1963 so Ars Vocalis has filled the gap. Warner is a spoiler as they seem to be making no efforts at all to release these precious stereo reels on their own label. Maybe for the 100th anniversary of Callas's birth in 2023?

Paris 1963 can be ordered through [email protected]

Paul
 

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More on the Callas Copenhagen concert, June 9, 1963

According to the authoritative Performance Annals by Arthur Germond which were included in Henry Wisneski’s Maria Callas: The Art Behind the Legend (Doubleday, 1975) Callas sang the following five items at the Falconer Centret, Copenhagen on June 9, 1963:

Semiramide - Bel raggio
Norma - Casta Diva
Nabucco - Ben io t’invenni
Bohème - Quando m’en vo
Madama Butterfly - Con onor muore

I have the CD of what appears to be the first release of Copenhagen. This is The Callas Edition, Volume Five (3 CDs), IMC Music Ltd., 1998, CED 100345, Belgium. The sound quality is clear mono, but the concert is missing the Semiramide.

Ars Vocalis has released a sensational FM stereo broadcast tape of Callas’s June 5, 1963 Paris concert. This is genuine stereo live Callas. Listen to this with headphones in particular, and you will feel that you are sitting in the first row directly in front of Callas. The release on AV 5663-2 includes original radio announcements as well as overtures and intermezzi that were performed in between Callas’s arias. Again, when listening through headphones, you get an almost binaural quality and I have the sensation of being surrounded by a live audience with Callas in front of me. It is wonderful to hear Callas and the orchestra-only selections with such great sound quality, particularly after hearing June 5, 1963 in more muffled mono releases for years (including on EMI). Unfortunately, Warner legally blocked Decca from releasing these original stereo tapes of June 5, 1963 so Ars Vocalis has filled the gap. Warner is a spoiler as they seem to be making no efforts at all to release these precious stereo reels on their own label. Maybe for the 100th anniversary of Callas's birth in 2023?

Paris 1963 can be ordered through [email protected]

Paul
Meant to say: "Maybe for the 100th anniversary of Callas's birth in 2023?" (I've corrected it to read "Callas's birth" instead of "Callas's death").
 
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