Callas in Verdi’s Ernani

Maria Callas never sang the rôle of Elvira in Verdi’s Ernani on stage, though there was chatter in the 1950s of a possible La Scala production. More’s the pity, because she had everything needed by the heroines of Verdi’s youthful operas: Agility, fire in the belly, rhythmic flair, and that feeling of almost devilish energy that separates the true Verdians from the impostors.

(By the way, Verdi, in his letters, wrote admiringly of singers who had il diavolo addosso, “the devil on their backs.”)

Maria Callas recorded Elvira’s cavatina “Ernani, Ernani involami!” in 1958 with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Nicola Rescigno. Some consider the late Maestro Rescigno a hack or a mere time-beater, but I have always admired his conducting. Listen, for example, to the sultry, gorgeous thing he and the Philharmonia make of the brief orchestral introduction to this aria.

I would point out, too, that Callas, never one to suffer fools gladly, trusted and respected Rescigno and worked with him whenever she could. He also seems to have been a lovely human being.

Walter Legge, who had dreadful things to say about Callas’s character, recalled that she was an easy-going colleague, who approved this take of “Ernani, Ernani involami!” on the spot after Legge praised Rescigno’s buoyant, energetic tempi. She sang the aria frequently during her 1959 and 1962 concert tours.

No comments:

Post a Comment