Maria Callas sings Berlioz

Admirers of Maria Callas love to play “what if.” What if she had never gone on the July 1959 cruise with Aristotle Onassis? What if Elsa Maxwell, that bird of ill omen, had never arrived on the scene? What if Callas had agreed to sing Carmen, Poppea, Charlotte—all rôles that were offered to her after her withdrawal from the stage?

For me, the most painful “what if” is Callas in Berlioz. In 1963, she set down a glorious recording of Marguerite’s “D’amour l’ardente flamme” from La Damnation de Faust. She was not in prime vocal form, but what a feeling she had for Berlioz’s music—the fire smouldering beneath the polished surface, the love for la parole, the sensuality tamed by restraint.

To my mind, a great tragedy is that Callas never undertook Didon in Les Troyens, a rôle that she could have sung well at almost any point of her career (and her retirement), or so it seems to me. And Les Nuits d’été? And La Mort de Cleopâtre?

Well, we can be grateful that we have this beautiful recording.


  1. Thank you! (Well, I guess Maria Callas from heaven thanks you.) ☺

  2. More than Didon, I think Callas would have been a formidable Cassandre. ;-)

  3. I also use to play this "what if" game. I'd love to hear Callas singing La Straniera, and even "unknown" operas - such as Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio, by Verdi. In the operas by Carlos Gomes (do you know any of them?) she would be great too.

    However, I still hope that one day we'll be able to watch her singing many rôles at the theaters of Heaven. :-)