In the Re-visioning Callas archives there are two other renditions of the letter scene from Verdi’s Macbeth: Callas’s 1958 studio recording, and her 1959 Hamburg performance (complete with Will Crutchfield’s marvelous insights).
This recording from Los Angeles, a relatively recent addition to the Callas canon, is from November 1958 and features a remarkably ugly “concert ending” to the cavatina, as in the Hamburg performance.
Listening to it, I find myself for once in agreement with Michael Scott, or at least with a writer whom Michael Scott quotes approvingly—that the effect of Callas’s voice was less that of a dramatic soprano than it was of “a huge soprano leggero with great variety of colour and practically unlimited dynamics.” (The quote comes from a review of Callas in Chicago, c. 1955.) The first acuto (a C?) is a nasty flap, but no one, not even the great Shirley Verrett, digs into Lady Macbeth’s music as fiercely and fearlessly as Callas.
This ends our Verdi birthday week celebrations. Bon week-end à tous, and see you next week!