Callas in La Wally

Maria Callas may have had ulterior motives in September 1954 when she recorded “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana” from Alfredo Catalani’s La Wally.

According to Frank Hamilton’s superb performance annals and indices, this 1954 session marked the only time that Callas sang this aria. Why then? Perhaps because, in December 1953, Renata Tebaldi had opened the La Scala season in… La Wally. By including “Ebben?” and other late Ottocento selections alongside florid arias by Verdi, Rossini, Meyerbeer, and Delibes, Callas may have wished to show that her voice embraced Tebaldi’s repertoire and so much more.

This is mere speculation on my part. It is entirely possible that EMI wished to cash in on the recent Scala opening by including this aria, or that Tullio Serafin commended this chestnut to his protégée. In any event, Callas gives a performance of exquisite melancholy. Her haunting interpretation supposedly inspired, in part, Diva, the 1981 film by Jean-Jacques Beineix.

(Incidentally, while researching this post, I learned that Diva was issued on DVD in the United States in faux stereo, without Beineix’s knowledge or aproval.)

The photo is from late 1954, showing Callas rehearsing Spontini’s La vestale at La Scala.

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