Elvira de Hidalgo, Coloratura Soprano and Callas’ teacher

Elvira de Hidalgo was a popular singer in her time, but her fame as a singer has been eclipsed by her fame as Callas’ teacher in the Athens Conservatory. Just as an aside, the great Irma Kolassi was also at the Athens Conservatory and also taught Callas.

I have done something a bit unfair in this post. I have put de Hidalgo and Callas side by side. There are a couple of things to note. The sound in the de Hidalgo recordings is not great. The sound in the Callas recordings is better. De Hidalgo was a coloratura soprano. She sang principally in the resonance, especially higher in her range. Today, her sound would be considered to be too bright. Then again, listen to what we have today.

Callas was a high dramatic soprano who underwent all the Bel Canto training that de Hidalgo could throw at her. Callas’ ability to move a very big voice was due to this Bel Canto training (something that has disappeared in today’s singers). But notice that Callas does not copy her teacher; rather she makes these pieces her own, undoubtedly strongly influenced by de Hidalgo.  I think that I would go even a little farther.  Without de Hidalgo, there would have been no Callas.

Prendi, per me sei libero
Resta nel suol natio
Non v’ha destin si rio
Che non si cangi un di. Resta!
Qui dove tutti t’amano
Saggio, amoroso, onesto
Sempre scontento e mesto
o, non sarai cosi.

Take it, because of me you are free
Stay on your native soil
There is not destiny for you so bitter
That will not change one day. Stay!
Here where everyone loves you
Wise, loving, honest
Always unhappy and miserable
No, you will not always be that way.

Ah, non giunge uman pensiero
al contento ond’io son piena:
a miei sensi io credo appena;
tu m’affida o mio tesor.

Ah, mi abbraccia, e sempre insieme,
sempre uniti in una speme,
della terra, in cui viviamo
ci formiamo un ciel d’amor.

O, inconceivable human thought
a wave of contentment I am full:
In my feelings I can hardly believe;
you assure me, o my treasure.

O, embrace me, and always together,
always united in a single hope,
of the world, we live in
we will make a heaven of love.

Hidalgo, Elvira de (1892–1980)

Spanish soprano. Born on December 27, 1892, in Aragòn, Spain; died on January 21, 1980, in Milan, Italy; studied with Concetta Bordalba and Melchiorre Vidal.

Debuted in Naples (1908), Metropolitan Opera (1910), Covent Garden (1924); retired (1932); became a teacher who was best known for her famous pupil, Maria Callas.

Elvira de Hidalgo, the Spanish soprano, is best remembered as the teacher of Maria Callas , though she established a career of her own before becoming a teacher. Born in Spain in 1892, she debuted in Milan and then went on to great success at the Sarah Bernhardt Theater in Paris, the Khedive in Cairo, and finally the Metropolitan Opera. De Hildago’s voice had an attractive timbre which reached to a top D. She made a number of recordings which are especially interesting because her style is also reflected in Callas’ singing. When de Hidalgo retired in 1932, she went to the Athens Conservatory where she taught Callas, the young American-born singer of Greek parentage, beginning in 1937. The accuracy of embellishments and use of embellishments characterized de Hidalgo’s singing as they also would Callas’.