Callas in Mozart and Verdi

27 January is a day kissed by the angels, a vortex of musical space-time. It is the day on which Mozart began his earthly journey in 1756 and on which Verdi passed back into eternity in 1901.

Maria Callas sang only one Mozart heroine on stage: Kostanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1952, La Scala). Verdi was much more important in her career; her Verdi rôles comprised Gilda, Violetta, both Leonoras, Elisabeth de Valois, Lady Macbeth, Hélène, Aida, Amelia, and Abigaille.

A quote from Will Crutchfield’s masterful 1997 article “The bel canto connection”:
One of Maria Callas’ more eyebrow-raising comments in her 1971 – 72 Juilliard master classes was the assertion that Mozart “should be performed with the same frankness and bel canto approach one would use in Il trovatore, for instance. Mozart,” she went on, to make sure no one overlooked the point, “was a master of bel canto, and a necessity of bel canto is a full, sustained tone and good legato. So sing Mozart as though he were Verdi—there is no difference in the approach.”
Callas, Crutchfield concludes, was “dead right”—though, heaven knows, fascists and dorks of many stripes would howl in protest.

(For the record: I think that today’s “mainstream,” commonly accepted performance practices for both Mozart and Verdi are pathetic and wrongheaded.)

Judge Callas’s work for yourself. For this 27 January 2010, I make you two gifts: Her 1954 recording of “Marten aller Arten” and her 1956 recording of “Tu vedrai che amore in terra.”

Both Kostanze and the Trovatore Leonora are in love with death, and Callas imbues their music with a dark urgency.

No comments:

Post a Comment