I am going to do something a little different in this post. I have put various performers side by side singing lieder in the past, but I have never done this with a dramatic mezzo aria. Three of these four women sang Princess Eboli (the singer of the aria) on stage. I think that Callas only recorded it and performed in live in concert. Here is some background on the aria:
The aria is from the opera Don Carlo, a relatively late Verdi opera. Interestingly enough, the opera was not received well. It was felt that Verdi was following in the footsteps of Wagner too closely.
The King’s cabinet, Madrid, Spain, 1559
Synopsis: Eboli has betrayed her Queen and friend Elizabeth to the Queen because her advances to Carlos have been rejected. In retaliation, Elizabeth gives her the choice of being exiled or becoming a nun. After she leaves, Eboli curses the gift of beauty that she has been given, saying that it has been the cause of all her problems. She swears to save Carlos from the imprisonment that has resulted from her betrayal.
This is a mezzo aria, but sometimes, some sopranos have sung it too. It calls for a dramatic, that is a big, voice.
One point that I would like to make is that all of these singers had free voices. They weren’t manipulating muscles in their mouths to make sound. Sound, in a sense was just happening.
Callas was a special case. I think that this recording was made in about 1964. This was well into her declining years, and this can be heard in her high notes and the wobble that she developed. Even in spite of this, she may have given the most nuanced recording of this aria that is posted here. You decide!