Callas and Fiorilla III

Michael Scott, the founder of the London Opera Society, has an acid tongue and, it seems, the constancy of a streetwalker.

In his liner note for the Naxos reissue of Rossini’s Il turco in Italia, Mr. Scott uses Maria Callas as a stick with which to beat Cecilia Bartoli. He cites the monumentally important Rossini scholarship undertaken by Philip Gossett and others, then remarks:
A recent recording, taking advantage of this scholarship,… suffers from a Fiorilla whose florid singing is full of aspirates [audible exhalations of breath]; so obviously is her voice caught in her throat, the analogy she conjures up is that of a turkey gobbling.
Now that he is in Naxos’s employ, Mr. Scott seems to have discovered heretofore unsuspected virtues in Maria Callas’s performance. In his bitchy, hateful Maria Meneghini Callas (1991), he had written of her Fiorilla:
From the time Callas has lost weight we note the element of contrivance beginning to obtrude in her characterizations. However, spontaneity is essential to Rossini’s style. Although Callas’s Fiorilla may be remarkably different from her Leonora, it lacks charm and does not engage the listener’s sympathy… Exaggerating was the nearest Callas could get to comedy.
Judge for yourself whether Callas’s Fiorilla “lacks charm” or, indeed, whether “in her attempts to refine her characterization she loses sight of the basis of secure vocal emission: a correctly supported voice.”

Her partner in this duet is Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, and Gianandrea Gavazzeni leads the La Scala orchestra.

Listen to Maria Callas in other selections by Rossini.

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