Plain and simply, Maria Callas was the operatic icon of the Twentieth Century. The vocal, musical, and dramatic coponents of her art totaled a "complete package" that no one, living or historical, could come within miles of. My gripe here is with EMI, who, while they recorded Callas extensively in the standard repertoire (I am not including the studio recitals here), they completely missed the boat by not recording the great diva in roles like Lady Macbeth, Anna Bolena, Imogene in "Pirata", Elena in "Vespri", Abigalle in "Nabucco", and a few others. They have tried in recent years to correct this error by issuing live performances (with barely adequate sound) of "Bolena", "Macbeth", and "Pirata", etc. But --- and this is very important --- in many instances, the pressings that EMI have acquired sound even worse than the pirate pressings on which these performances first appeared. Truly, we should be grateful that EMI were brave enough to studio-record Callas in "Norma", "Puritani","Sonnambula" and "Il Turco in Italia".
This recording is a case in point. To start with, I am convinced that the abbreviated "Butterfly" aria in the beginning is NOT Callas. True, the speaking voice bears an astonishing likeness to her, but the singing does not. Even at the age of twelve, there should have been at least a hint of the Callas sound, however undeveloped. Someone spliced in another voice, I am sure. Yes, I know that I could be wrong, but I doubt it. The Proch variations are spectacular and they prove what a coloratura technician Callas was, but the sound is so introlerably bad that I find it impossible to listen to. All of the other items here are represented elsewhere on EMI releases in much better sound - though Callas herself may not have been in as excellent vocal condition.
Yes -- we are grateful to EMI for making so much of Callas' work available. But let's look at it from the $$$$$ standpoint. EMI has made megabucks on Callas, and while her artistry is certainly worth it, I wonder how much of a favor EMI is doing Callas by releasing material which she herself would have rejected, especially given the inferior pressings that EMI has settled for. It's not a tribute to the supreme diva of the Twentieth century ----- it's a matter of the all mighty dollar!!!!