on 11 October 2006
Callas' recording of the "Mad Scenes" set the absolute standard in the 20th century for the early-middle Romantic Bel Canto depiction of those fragile heroines who went over the deep end. Other roles in this peculiar category that Callas excelled in were Lucia of Lammermoor, Elvira in Puritani and Amina in Sonnambula (the latter a kind of temporary insanity).
What Callas brings to these roles that no other singer in living or recorded memory is interpretation from the inside out. Sutherland's recording of Ophelia is lovely and even convincing from a musical point of view, in the same way Tebaldi brought superior vocal and musical gifts to her interpretations.
But Callas had one other quality that they hadn't and also current sopranos didn't seem to grasp as of yet---the suspension of one's ego and completely immersing it into the character. That is why Callas can sound so different in any role she sang. And that is why so many other singers like Beverly Sills sound so much the same in allegedly different roles. In general, they are just emoting the words to the music or the music to the words, and/or also showing off their technique at the same time.
This total immersion also produces the sustaining quality that keeps up one's interest in the way an instrumentalist can play and develop a sonata of several movements. It is much harder to sustain a long stretch of drama alone, much more than a simple three part aria.
Also Callas was in her Bel Canto prime back in 1958. Without that subtle technique, this kind of music simply does not work.
This in my opinion is one of the most important vocal documents of the 20th century.
on 20 July 2004
This Mad Scenes album is thrilling! I really like the Hamlet aria, although I like the italian version better.
Anna Bolena is fabulous, and this is the only studio recording of Bolena by Callas. (just an excerpt though).
I would recomend it warmly, cos Maria here shows us that this is how a Mad Scene should be done!