To enable us to comment on Maria Callas as an operatic diva, it is first necessary to ascertain whether she possess all the stated attributes usually associated with the term. The conductor Sir Charles Mackerras believes there must be an ‘aura’, but ‘there also has to be something unusual as well as competent about a diva, something compelling about her personality’ (reference). This was certainly true of Maria Meneghini Callas.
The opening paragraph of the newspaper review describes her gifts as ‘peculiar ones, not exactly comparable to those of any other singer’ (reference). Winthrop Sargent even goes so far as to comment on it’s ‘reediness and it’s tendency to wobble slightly’ (reference). But far from detracting from her overall performance, he says she uses it to demonstrate a ‘fiery conveyance for female passion’ (reference).
This is because it is the overall performance that made Ms Callas such a memorable performer. It is the ‘total dramatic projection’ that exemplified her on stage performances. She does indeed manage ‘to make the character and her situation seem real’ (reference p.177). This is especially prevelant when she is singing in the recorded piece.
Of course it is very difficult to comment on this full range of theatrical abilities when only reviewing a newspaper arcticle and an audio recording; particularly when the review is not of the actual recorded piece. Missing is the visual aspect of Ms Callas performance, which was enthused over as being ‘as extraordinarily perceptive and gripping even by the standards of the legitimate stage’. (reference) There are, however, very few visual recordings of the opera from this time, so we have to reply on often heavily edited vocal recordings and articles such as these, written for popular consumption, towards the end of her career.
But despite these, by modern standards, media restrictions, the newspaper article does help to put Ms Callas singing qualities into context and perspective. She is obviously a more than competent singer, her unique voice is not ‘dime a dozen’ (reference) for the review describes it as ‘impeccable’ (reference). The article can also be seen as conferring on her the ‘something compelling’ element of Sir Charles’ description. Her interpretation is reported as being a ‘highly personal interpretation’ which was an ‘electrifying fusion of music, theatre and personality that opera goers are only occasionally privileged to witness’. (reference). So the combinations of the singing talents, her acting ability and her sheer personality on stage all combine to make Maria Callas a genuine operatic diva.
Courtney from Study Moose
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