Skip to main content

Lucia di Lammermoor live 1955 sextet, Callas et al.

By November 9, 2018September 28th, 2019No Comments

I have been in Callas withdrawal for quite a while, so this blog posting will be about her and about a very famous live performance of Lucia di Lammermoor in Berlin 1955, conducted by von Karajan.  You would not usually associate von Karajan with Bel Canto opera, but he is superb here.  The excerpt that I am going to direct you to is the famous sextet in Act II, “Che mi frena in tal momento”.  Here we have Callas in excellent vocal shape and a cast of La Scala regulars:  Giuseppe di Stefano, Rolando Panerai, Nicola Zaccaria, Giuseppe Zampieri, and Luisa Villa.  What is special about this performance is that the audience, presumably Germans in Berlin, go so crazy about this performance that Karajan repeats it!  Here is the link:

I have an old version (that is a polite way of saying a pirated copy) of this performance, and I will post it to see if you can hear any difference between what I have and what is on youtube.

Che mi frena in tal momento

For many years this live performance of Lucia di Lammermoor, recorded on tour in Berlin in 1955 with Callas, Karajan and members of La Scala company, was one of the most prized of all unauthorized sets, offering those of us who weren’t there a chance to sample a sensation and discover why some normally robust critics were robbed of sleep for a week by the experience.
The live version brings with it some technical limitations, but it is not without its advantages, not least in the crucial matter of perspective. In this Berlin recording, Callas herself is often more naturally ‘placed’ than is the case in the 1953 Florence set, where the close microphoning favored by EMI’s Italian production team tends to rob the singing of mystery and allure.   This Lucia has been remastered and reissued by EMI.  You would have to listen to the live recording and the remastered “live” recording to decide which you like better, but if you like Callas, even if you don’t like Callas, this is the Lucia to own.