Maria Callas in Delibes

According to Frank Hamilton’s marvelous annals and chronologies, Maria Callas sang music by Delibes on only four occasions of which we know. During her Greek years, she performed “Les filles de Cadix” and the Bell Song from Lakmé. She later sang the Bell Song twice more, in a 1952 concert and a 1954 EMI recording session.

This clip brings us the “live” 1952 version, with a RAI Symphony Orchestra (of Turin or Rome) led by Oliviero de Fabritiis. The occasion was one of the Grandi Concerti Martini e Rossi, and Callas was to have shared the bill with Giacomo Lauri Volpi (Nicola Filacuridi sang instead). In addition to this Lakmé aria, she also performed music from Verdi’s Macbeth and Nabucco and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

1952 was the year in which Callas’s gifts as a soprano drammatico d’agilità really came to the fore. Her 1952 operas included Verdi’s Vespri, La traviata, and Macbeth; Rossini’s Armida; and Bellini’s I puritani. She also sang the odd Tosca and Gioconda.

Listening to this clip, one has the impression of a voice that could do anything. (It’s not clear to me whether the fleeting unsteadiness one hears derives from Callas herself or from the radio transcription.)

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