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Medea (Bernstein, Callas) Live, Original recording remastered

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Maria Callas was born Maria Anna Sophia Cecilia Kalogeropoulou in New York on 2 December 1923 to Greek immigrant parents Evangelia and George Kalogeropoulos. In 1937 Evangelia separated from her husband and returned with her two daughters Maria and Jackie to Greece, where she intended to give them the musical education she could not afford in America. Maria began her vocal studies with the ... Read more in Amazon's Maria Callas Store

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Product details

  • Audio CD (2 Sept. 2002)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Live, Original recording remastered
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B000069V7R
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 379,544 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Medea (29 tracks on 2 cds) - Luigi Cherubini

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jacques COULARDEAU on 2 Nov. 2011
Format: Audio CD
Let's say straight away that in 1953 the recording equipment was not superb and the audience, even in Alla Scala di Milano, clapped at the end of arias and at times right in the middle of some scenes. That live recording is historical of course since it was directed by Leonard Bernstein and Maria Callas was Medea. Just for these reasons this recording is essential.

In this version of Medea some changes were introduced on both models that inspired Cherubini, or rather the librettist François-Benoît Hoffman, viz. Pierre Corneille's play (that was also supposedly the model of Charpentier's eponym opera on Thomas Corneille's libretto) and Euripides. The first change is that Jason in the first act takes advantage of the fact that Medea had been banned out of the palace to court Glauce and promise total fidelity in spite of the doubts of the girl. Creon promises protection for the children against the vengeful desire of Pelias' son, Jason's uncle murdered by some enchantment of Medea who managed to make Pelias be killed, cut up in pieces and boiled by his own daughters in the vain hope of him being rejuvenated. This son wants to avenge his father's death on Medea's children.

Medea comes into the palace disguised as an oracle coming from Apollo's temple. And that's the first confrontation with Jason and Creon. She is marvelous in that pugnacious role of the offended and repudiated wife fighting for her own honor, since a woman when repudated is dishonored. The decision then comes and she is exiled out of the kingdom.

The second act is quite in line with the traditional story with the confrontation of Medea and Jason.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Moore TOP 50 REVIEWER on 22 Aug. 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A recording of Callas in one of her most celebrated and seminal roles is something most serious opera-lovers will want to own and listen to but the choice isn't straightforward. The role really suited her in that it combines the opportunity for her to capitalise upon her histrionic gifts as "la tigre" while the classical restraint of the music demands the kind of mesmeric poise and concentration she could bring to a role whereby she achieves impact through sheer technical expertise. No artist knew the score better than Callas - intimate knowledge of her own part and everyone else's was the norm for her - and she identified both with the complexity of the eponymous character and the measured beauty of the music, which often requires as much pathos as it does pyrotechnics.

There are in essence three essential sets: the live recording from 1953 under Bernstein (who stepped in for an indisposed de Sabata; his heart attack marked his retirement from opera), the equally famous 1958 live Dallas performance under Callas' friend, mentor and confidant Nicola Rescigno and finally the 1957 studio recording under Serafin in primitive stereo.

There is no obvious first choice. I own all three and find much to commend them all, although I think none is good enough to merit five stars, as despite Callas's artistry the studio set suffers from scratchy string sound, some odd balances and a certain lack of voltage compared with the quasi-verismo excitement of the live recordings. On the other hand, Cherubini would probably not have recognised Bernstein's and Rescigno's hyper-expressive way with the score and much preferred Serafin's more severe and classical restraint.
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7 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Kibble on 2 Mar. 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The quality of this recording is so poor as to render the work virtually unlistenable. The chorus, brass, Barbieri and timpani suffer the worst distortion but also Callas when in full flight. This is very sad as undernesth the distortion it is obvious Callas was in fine dramatic and vocal form. The recording makes the orchestra sound dead which it surely did not under Bernstein's baton. There is a tiny merit in the 'historical' value of the work but if this is the best digital remastering can do then EMI really should not have bothered. Cherubini's majestic work is completly lost in this dreadful flat reproduction and the whole is a great disappointment. Buy a recent recording not this one and enjoy the opera. You won't have the occasional glimpses of Callas's rare talent and unique interpretation of Medea but you will save yourself considerable disappointment in purchasing a totally unacceptable standard of reproduction (there is much better around from the 1950s so no idea why this is so poor).
This recording should come with a health warning attached on the jacket !
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 16 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
By L. Mitnick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Unlike the 1955 "Andrea Chenier" and the same year's "La Sonnambula", this Callas performance, which came a year and a half before (all three are being reissued on EMI in the current
Callas Edition series), also at La Scala, sounds quite listenable. There is none of the disfiguring distortion on loud notes that is encountered on the "Andrea Chenier" and, to a lesser extent, on the "Sonnambula".
Callas' Medea, as heard on this performance, is a Godzilla-like predator. The voice was in its most spectacular condition --- very large, powerful, and venemous. After listening to what Callas accomplishes here, one realizes why these Cherubini opera is no longer in the repertoire today. Plainly and simply, there is no one around today who could even come remotely close to what Callas brings off here. This may also be the best conducted of all the Callas Medea performances, with Leonard Bernstein's pacing and exciting tempi.
This is a performance well worth owning, and the sound is certainly one of the better Callas-live recordings. What a shame that some of the other performances issued in this series (most notably the "Andrea Chenier", "Sonnambula", and "Traviata" ---------all from La Scala in 1955, could not sound as good as this "Medea" does.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The Mighty Medea 2 Nov. 2005
By Rudy Avila - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This EMI recording will never dare get out of print. Recorded at La Scala in the 50's it finds Maria Callas in her prime, singing with bite, feral power and dramatic commitment in a role that equalled her greater performance as Bellini's Norma. This would be her second greatest role. The rest of the cast sings well and supports her with harmonic and dramatic integrity, particularly Fedora Barbieri, one of the few mezzo-sopranos who could raise her chest voice above the orchestra. Leonard Bernstein, ranking high in the list of quality conductors of the 20th century, takes the baton in a powerful, visceral interpretation of Cherubini's originally classical/Gluckian score. Bernstein was the one conductor who stood out by pulling out all the stops and delivering tricks that were innovative. His conducting was bombastic and modern and usually strayed from the mainstream, orthodox, old-school way of conducting that such famous names as Toscanini, Stokowski and Karajan conducted. Bernstein works well with Callas, bringing out more passion and dynamics than even De Sabata or Tullio Serafin, her champion conductors, ever did. Bernstein knows that Callas was at this time at the top of the opera scene and he wholly supports her temperament and bravura in a sublime performance. Medea is based on the old Greek legend of the wife of Jason, leader of the Golden Fleece-searching Argonauts. When Jason was unfaithful, Medea became crazed with jealousy and even murders her own children. The intensity of the opera lies in Medea's emotional downward spiral, which Callas, with terrific musicianship and vocal ability gets into easily. This is a must have for fans of the diva and while I don't much care for all her roles I think that Norma, Medea and Tosca are his best roles.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Great 1 Oct. 2005
By D. Bennett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Artists: Maria Callas, Gino Penno, Fedora Barbieri, Maria Luisa Nache et al.

Maria Callas' approach to Medea changed somewhat through her career. Here, her Medea, much like her Norma at Covent Garden in 1952, is of greater elemental strength than later in her career, compared with her portrayal at Dallas in 1958 for example, although not quite so complete. At Dallas, her voice was no longer the same dramatic soprano that graced the stage in 1953; instead, the voice is even finer on the coloratura high notes, if less secure than before, and Medea becomes less of a tigress and more `human'. However, her Medea remains remarkable at La Scala.

Gino Penno, an exciting singer, is a fine partner - he was at home in the heavier Italian repertoire e.g. Pollione (Norma), Manrico (Il Trovatore) and Ernani - several excellent "live" recordings and broadcasts of his exist; the Ernani with Cetra was particularly great.

Maria Luisa Nache was a quality singer and makes Glauce seem interesting.

Leonard Bernstein's conducting remains somewhat controversial but the result is extremely exciting and potent.

The sound is average - the chorus is tarnished by distortion and swamps just about everything else - soloists and orchestra - when at full pelt. The sound is usually adequate, if rather murky - excluding some high-notes and occasionally overpowering bass.


D. Bennett
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The only Medea 17 Feb. 2005
By Pia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Greek Maria Callas was and is the greatest Medea to be listened to on a recording of Cherubini's masterpiece. She has it all. A ravishing dark voice, all the colours of melancholy, sadness, hatred, madness and so forth being part of her singing. In this live-performance from 1953 her genius shines in its fullest glory. There's little I can add to the reviews already posted here. A miracle of a recording!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Medea of dark beauty 28 Jan. 2004
By MatteoL - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I saw her live in this role.... Just for the tenderness in "cari figli" and the BEAUTY in her youthful voice... Yet she always found the darkest colours for this tormented woman... The ONLY Medea!!! Jones, Galvany, Caballe etc. etc. not even understood this role!
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