To my heart-hearing, she was the greatest soprano and dramatic actress ever. I performed this on Monday evening as a dedication, as Callas often ended her final tours with it. From Puccini’s opera Gianni Schicchi:
One glance, a slight facial expression could convey more in a second, than a million words, because she lived and felt the emotions and each situation in the opera as if it were her own.
Then comes the voice of La Divina. Maria Callas became the roles she played having had much traumatic experience from birth. A documentary says she took her own life like one of the dramatic heroines she played.
When she was alone in Paris, she said by telephone to Guiseppe Di Stefano when he called: “Caro Pipo, ogni giorno, per fortuna, un giorno di meno.” Each day, fortunately, is one day less.
She was devoted, loyal and married to the traditional training of her art. A rarity now. She was driven by her own perfectionism and didn’t enjoy having to comply with the publicity and media interviews – so they often just made up stories, or her Mother did.
Callas didn’t want to do recordings, she felt that every performance should be live, fresh and living. I’m so grateful she did though, as I’ve listened to everything available time and again, and enjoyed performing some of the arias myself.
Born 2 December 1923 and who died, on 16th September 1977, this brief tribute, of course, can never do her justice.
The following is a less populist aria I sang at the Jazz Club in Hammersmith recently, L’altra Notte In Fondo Al Mare (the other night at the bottom of the ocean), from the opera, Mephistopheles, by the poet and lyricist Arrigo Boito. Maria Callas begins singing about 2.5 minutes but the introduction by Boito is also sublime and evokes the dark, sombre emotions and environment.
Margherita is the young woman who has been seduced by Dr Faustus, (having been restored to his youth – a temporary illusion – by the trickster Mephistopheles. Margherita is unaware, but is still cruelly treated by unwitting association. Everything is taken from her, her child, her Mother and she is incarcerated. She sings:
The early morning Dawn is fresh,
the cell is dark and gloomy and my spirits,
are like a sparrow in the forest
flying, flying freely away.
Musicologists technically debate her range but that sort of analysis is secondary to taking in the whole feeling of her incredible sound.
Verdi said he wanted “Una donna di tutta forza” to perform the courtesan role of Violetta Valery in “La Traviata”. He would be delighted with Callas! Not many sing the final note and none with such force and power. I’ve succeeded a few times with much rehearsal!
With love and gratitude to the great soul that is Maria Callas whose voice will endure forever.
With angelic sound blessings to you all, Dawn