Puccini, Bellini, Verdi, Leoncavallo, Donizetti, Saint-Sa‘ns, Bizet, Berlioz, Massenet, Mozart, Spontini, Cilea

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bellini,Berlioz,Bizet,Cilea,Donizetti,Leoncavallo,Massenet,Mozart,Puccini,Saint-Sa‘ns,Spontini,Verdi
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Romantic Callas
WORKS: Arias & duets
PERFORMER: Maria Callas (soprano), etc; various orchestras and conductors
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 5 57205 2 ADD mono/stereo Reissue (1953-64)
No admirer of Callas’s art or even Callas the icon will be able to resist this new compilation, which sees EMI mining its most valuable archive ever more creatively. This ‘Special Collector’s Edition’ is beautifully produced and packaged, and includes a ‘picture gallery’ drawn at least in part from the private photograph albums that the record company secured at a spectacular auction of Callas memorabilia in Paris in December 2000. By turns touching and glamorous, the photos give a taste of other material surely to come as EMI finds increasingly attractive ways of packaging recordings that are soon to go out of copyright (in Europe), with the rights to the famous 1953 Tosca due to expire next year.

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Arias and duets from 20 operas are featured, and many of Callas’s most famous roles, most of them recorded during her years of supremacy; it is largely the French material that was caught after 1960. A note points that these showcase Callas exploring ‘all aspects of romantic love experienced by operatic heroines’, but what really matters is the way she sings with love. It need hardly be said that, imperfections and all, this is intensely expressive singing and surely the most interesting gallery of characterisations a single opera singer has ever produced. John Allison