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Who do you prefer in this, Callas or Sutherland

  • Maria Callas

    Votes: 18 78.3%
  • Joan Sutherland

    Votes: 5 21.7%
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Kunst diva or Stimme diva ? I hope I have that right. It could be roughly translated as art vs. voice diva.

The Sutherland voice is magnificent, of course. As are the high notes. She gets a few more in as she transposes the last phrases upwards. The singing of the aria is smooth, hardly any sharp edges, nothing to disturb the flow of that voice. The conducting itself is hardly tragic, unlike the other video where it's all tragic. This is interpretative Prozac. But a valid choice.

" From that terrible struggle, I exit with a broken soul" begins the recitative. The French words don't sound so prosaic as the English ones.

The Callas voice is in a shocking state - the top raw and raucous, but what she does with the rest of the aria and its recitative is a master class of interpretation, color and grandeur. The voice itself is mostly in decent shape, the middle voice suiting the music beautifully. Some will decry the high notes, or the flap on sustained tones and tremulous sostenuti on even mid-high ones.

But I know which recording would come down from my shelf most often.
 

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I have known and loved Callas's grand assumption of this aria since its release on LP, and I continue to feel that Charlotte would have been one of the most appropriate roles for her in the terminal phase of her career. Even the painful high notes are absorbed in her brilliant articulation of the character's own pain, as they could not be in some of the other arias she chose to include in her two French opera collections. I'm grateful that we have as much French music from her as we do, much of it lying predominantly in the mezzo range where the dark timbre of her mature voice made its best effect. And, though my French is rudimentary (don't ask me to converse with you), it's clear to me that she has mastered the sounds of the language as few foreigners do, and she is able to give a beautiful demonstration of the way in which the articulation of words fulfills an essential requirement of fully meaningful singing. This is a performance of immense gravity and authority that pierces the heart.

I didn't know that Sutherland had attempted this, and I wouldn't have expected it (which indicates nothing but my ignorance of her work, I'm sure). I can admire in it a genuine effort to rise to its challenges, and I suppose it gets at least halfway there. The fey, wilted phrasing which typifies - and sometimes compromises - so much of her work in bel canto opera is not wholly absent here, and there's no compensatory strength in her verbal articulation, which plays hide and seek behind a veil of "schwa" tinged with the French "eu," so that we can identify the language but not make contact with it. As everyone will point out, the high notes are strong and fine; however, the gain at that end of her range is lost at the other, where the lower middle voice has its typical plugged-up quality and the chest voice has little resonance or bite. Hers is not a voice made for tragedy, but only for the gentler pathos of the roles in which, wisely, she specialized.

I'm afraid I find no competition here.
Gorgeously said!
 

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Looking through the versions of this aria on youtube threw up some interesting candidates. Bumbry and Verrett would seem a perfect fit, but I wouldn't have thought it would suit the likes of Cotrubas and Gheorghiu. I know Gheorghiu recorded a sympathetic Charlotte, but the role sounds a bit low for her and I would have thought Chimène would be too. Scotto recorded it late in her career and I came across versions by Resnik, Caballé, Yoncheva, Françoise Pollet, Kasarova, Te Kanawa and Félia Litvine, not to mention a host of versions by singers I've never heard of. It seems to be a popular recital piece.

I doubt I'll be listening to most of them (there's only so much time in a day), but one or two piqued my interest.
Are we too impatient to wait for the next round? :lol:
 

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Can you speak or sing French? I can do both, quite accurately, and I can't catch half of what she's saying. I have to wonder how much I'd be able to distinguish if I'd never heard the aria before. All the vowels tend toward a "schwa," tinged with something like the French "eu," and consonants are variable. The very first phrase of the aria, "Pleurez, pleurez mes yeux," might as well be "meuweu, meuweu, meuse yeu." Her phrasing may not be "droopy," but in the quiet passages it is somewhat limp and lacks intensity and drive, partly due to her mannerism of swelling and backing off of notes rather than steering them strongly into each other in a sharply etched legato line. Where the music is more declamatory and doesn't permit this sort of swooniness she's better, so that she leaves a more positive impression than her beginning led me to expect.

If she excels herself, it's only the self of 1962 which had declined after the Lucias of the 1950s.
I am of the same mind here vis à vis Conte's surprising positive comments on La Stupenda. Could he be switching to the Stimme camp and forgo Maria? Horrors! :devil:
 

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She's been a constant in my life for 50 years and more than other stars there is very strong emotional connection, much more than just being a fan. You are likely too mature to have such adolescent attachments to singers but I am an early teen in an old body.
And yet you have Birgit as your avatar?
 

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It was 1964 and was one of the few arias Callas agreed to EMI releasing in 1972, six years after she had last appeared on stage. The other arias on the disc were Imogene's first scene from Il Pirata, which was recorded in London in 1961 under Antonio Tonini, and Verdi arias from Attila, I Lombardi, I Vespri Siciliani and Aida's Ritorna vincitor, all recorded in Paris in 1964 under Rescigno. The best aria on the disc is undoubtedly the Aida, which has fewer high notes and in which she recovers much of her former dramatic fire.

The sessions were fraught with problems, Callas being for the most part very nervous and insecure, and most of the arias were composites of various takes. Not so the Aida aria, though. Apparently they were all taking a break as things had got particularly tense and Michel Glotz, the recording producer, played a recording of Régine Crespin singing Ritorna vincitor, which had been recorded in the studio the previous day. Callas was insensed on hearing a performance that was so antithetical to her artistic sensibilities. "This isn't Verdi or Aida" she exclaimed, "When I sang this with Maestro Serafin, it had such urgency I could hardly get the words out. Are the parts still here?" she asked. On finding that they were, she turned to Rescigno and said, "Come on, Nicola, let's do it." And they did. In one take. It ended up being by far the best recording on the LP that was finally released in 1972. It seems she briefly forgot her nerves and just went out and sang.
Callas - By Request was one of my favorite LPs and I played it to death.

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