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Callas in Beethoven II

I posted an excerpt from Beethoven’s “Ah, perfido!” (1796) last year. Today’s selection is the complete EMI recording from late 1963 and early 1964. Nicola Rescigno leads the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire.

Though Callas’s voice is not at its surest here, this “Ah, perfido!” is one of my great favorites among her recordings. I find that the combination of severity and fire in the music of Cherubini, Beethoven, Spontini, and Berlioz (who modelled himself on the older composers) suited her exceptionally well.

What a pity that she never revisited Fidelio after 1945!

Here is a snippet from a rehearsal recording of “Ah, perfido!” supposedly made in 1976, about a year before Callas died. Again, if the date is accurate, then it may be true that Callas never really lost her voice, only her nerve. And here is her Juilliard master class on Beethoven’s concert aria.

P.S. This post comes to you by the miracle of auto-scheduling. I’ll respond to comments and such on Monday.

Callas in Beethoven

This clip includes a portion of Maria Callas’s EMI recording of Beethoven’s “Ah! Perfido,” from 1963 and 1964. Her eloquent way with Beethoven’s music reminds us that she had portrayed Fidelio to great acclaim in Athens in 1944, and that Fidelio’s scene beginning “Abscheulicher!” had been a regular part of her concert and recital repertoire during her Greek years. Callas clearly was fond of this music: one of the very last recordings we have of her, reportedly from 1976, finds her singing “Ah! Perfido” in remarkably secure voice.

In truth, though, I chose this clip because of its visuals, which show us Callas at home in Milan, c. 1956, along with many other tidbits, including her Dallas news conference following her dismissal from the Metropolitan Opera; a bit of her L’invité du dimanche interview; the press conference following the so-called “Rome walkout”; a curtain call and backstage interview from the 1961 La Scala Medea; and the 1959 media scrum as she flies back to Italy to separate from Meneghini.

What strikes me throughout is how unbelievably arch she was off stage (well, does preening for the cameras in your gilded cage of a home count as “off stage”?), and how sweet and vulnerable she was on stage. That last still is astonishing, too, showing the chrysalis from which the butterfly would soon emerge.