Effect: a change that is a result or consequence of an action or other cause; used to refer to the state of being or becoming operative; the extent to which something succeeds or is operative; a physical phenomenon, typically named after its discoverer; an impression produced in the mind of a person.
Those are the definitions for “effect” given by my laptop’s dictionary widget. What do you think this “Callas Effect” is to which this forthcoming EMI release refers? Could it refer to the boosting of EMI’s bottom line that comes with every slicing, dicing, and reissue of the Callas catalogue, for good or ill?
The disc features the Romanian soprano singing some of Callas’s favorite repertory in the verismo genre, including arias from Puccini’s La bohème, Catalani’s La Wally and “La mamma morta,” the aria from Giordano’s Andrea Chénier made famous in the movie Philadelphia.
I’m not sure whose language that is—the blogger’s, EMI’s, or someone else’s. I would point out, though, that
- “verismo” is a supremely ill-defined term (much like “bel canto”), and seeing it bandied about is always a bad sign;
- Callas famously claimed not to care for late ottocento repertoire (she called Ponchielli “on the borderline of decent singing”); and
- while Callas did record the arias mentioned, she sang them very rarely outside of the studio (the Chénier aria during one six-performance run of the opera in 1955; the Wally aria never; and Bohème arias by Mimì and Musetta a scant handful of times in concert between 1958 and 1963).
Most distressingly, the CD apparently will include a digitally-concocted duet of Callas and Gheorghiu in the Habañera from Bizet’s Carmen.
I have always found Angela Gheorghiu to be an admirable singer and performer. (As I recall, I’ve heard her in Traviata, Rondine, Simon Boccanegra, Roméo et Juliette, Elisir, a best-forgotten Act II of Tosca [a rare failure], and on several other occasions.) The reasoning behind her nauseating personal publicity has always eluded me (the cloying nonsense with Alagna most of all), and said publicity seems to me unworthy and, indeed, offensive given the high level of artistry she has never failed to exhibit when I have heard her sing.
As for her supposed shortcomings as a professional, I have no idea which reports may be true and which made up out of whole cloth. First-hand accounts by people who sing alongside her run the gamut (that is, they’re actually rather run-of-the-mill for the wacky world of opera).
Why, then, this stupid, stupid, STUPID idea of a potted “duet” with Callas? Can EMI not move product without Callas? (I mean, wouldn’t, say, Andrea Bocelli or Lady Gaga do just as well? BTW, I love the Ga, so don’t diss her.) And why Carmen of all things—a rôle that Callas never sang on stage—for an alleged homage to her?
None of this, to be sure, should be construed as dismissing Gheorghiu’s singing on the forthcoming CD, which I anticipate enjoying. But I suspect that the disc is more an homage-to-desperate-marketing-weasels-at-EMI than any kind of tribute to Callas.