Callas in La forza del destino IV

Since Maria Callas was greatly devoted to the Theotokos (and celebrated her name day on the Dormition of the Theotokos), it seems fitting to conclude this series of excerpts from her 1954 recording of Verdi’s La forza del destino with “La vergine degli angeli.”

Out of cattiveria, I intended to post Callas’s rendition of the aria side-by-side with Renata Tebaldi’s traversal from Naples (1958), widely considered a milestone. Upon revisiting the two versions, I was surprised at how generally similar they are—and also surprised to note that, on purely vocal terms, I much prefer Callas.

Tebaldi, to my ears, consistently sings just under the pitch (though this may have more to do with the recording than with her). She mewls or croons once or twice (something I cannot abide), and I think that Callas outclasses her in phrasing and dynamics.

Truth be told, I think that for vocal splendor the finest version of “La vergine degli angeli” is the one by Ezio Pinza and Rosa Ponselle. Indeed, that recording of Pinza and Ponselle singing Verdi seems to me to reach some ultimate human limit of beauty, nobility, and genius. Maria Callas herself is supposed to have said, “I think we all know that Ponselle is simply the greatest singer of us all.”

Bon week-end à tous !

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