Callas in La traviata II

Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata was among the rôles that Maria Callas performed most frequently (along with Norma and Lucia). On more than one occasion, she remarked that she felt a spiritual kinship with Verdi’s noble, self-sacrificing courtesan.

Callas’s 1958 Covent Garden run of La traviata was her next-to-last encounter with Violetta. She sang two more performances in Dallas and reportedly committed to recording the opera (with a young Luciano Pavarotti) as late as 1968 or 1969, though she ultimately backed out of the project.

The company for La traviata at Covent Garden was strong. Nicola Rescigno conducted, Cesare Valletti was Alfredo, and Mario Zanasi was Germont. Callas was in inspired form—and also exhausted and discouraged following the Rome Norma brouhaha, surgery, and her break with La Scala. A few months later, in fact, during a BBC interview, she raised the possibility of retiring.

The Act II duet with Germont was a high point of the Covent Garden Traviata. As many writers have observed, Callas somehow managed to stop time and distill all of Violetta’s anguish and sacrifice in that hushed, suspended note leading into “Dite alla giovine.” (To paraphrase one of the YouTube comments, we hear not a voice but a soul.)

(I apologize for your having to click through to hear the clip, but embedding is disabled.)

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