I will not deny it. I am a Callasaholic. I first really learned about opera, well mostly Italian opera, from her recordings. When she arrived on the opera scene in the late 1940s, she revolutionized operatic performance. She attended the Athens Conservatory, where she was taught by Elvira de Hidalgo, a former Spanish Bel Canto singer (“bel canto” means beautiful singing, in Italian), and she was taught correctly, having to master the appropriate Bel Canto exercises. There is a lot of coloratura or fioratura in Bel Canto. You will hear Callas do it. Callas also was aware of the great singers of Bel Canto opera earlier in the century, such as Rosa Ponselle and Claudia Muzio and earlier, Giuditta Pasta and Maria Malibran. It was because of this training that certain operas that hadn’t been heard in decades, only because opera houses lacked the voices to sing them, were resurrected for Callas.  There is one other thing of which I would like to remind people.  Callas was terribly near-sighted, and she wore very thick glasses.  She got glaucoma in later life.  She never wore her glasses on stage.  This means that she was virtually blind and never could see the conductor.  She had to rely on her ears for everything.

I’m going to give you two arias here: one from a Bel Canto opera and one from a Verdi opera. The Bel Canto opera is called La sonnambula, or the the sleepwalker, by Bellini. The character that Callas plays is actually supposed to be sleepwalking for the cavatina,as she sings the it.

The next aria is one of Verdi’s deadliest. Verdi only wrote two dramatic roles, Lady Macbeth, and Abigaile from Nabucco. Callas sang both of these. The aria that I have selected is from a 1952 production of Macbeth. Callas was still a phenomenon at this time, and her ability to navigate this very difficult role is unsurpassed. I picked the early 50’s because beginning in about 1953, Callas lost about 80 lbs, and this changed her voice, But in this aria, she is nothing short of amazing.

There has been so much written about Callas that I am not going to anything in the summary below. If you want to hear more Callas, send me an e-mail.

Ah! non credea mirarti, Amina’s aria from La Sonnambula

Ah,non credea mirarti
si presto estinto, o fiore;
passasti al par d’amore,
che un giorno sol(o) duro.

Potria novel vigore
il pianto mio recarti
ma ravvivar l’amore
il pianto mio, ah no, non puo.

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.

Ah! non credea mirarti, Amina’s aria from La Sonnambula

Oh, I didn’t believe to see you
so quickly extinct, o flowers;
you have passed away like love
that one day only lasted.

Perhaps new life
my tears will bring to you
but to revive love
my tears, o no, cannot.

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.

Ambizioso spirto tu sei, Macbetto
Alla grandezza aneli ma sarai tu malvagio?
Pien di misfatti è il calle dell potenza,
E mal per lui
che il piede dubitoso vi pone, e retrocede!

Vieni! t’affretta!
Accendere ti vo’ quel freddo core!
L’audace impresa a compiere
Io ti darò valore.
Di Scozia a te promettono
Le profetesse il trono…
Che tardi?
Accetta il dono, ascendivi a regnar.

Macbeth, you are an ambitious man.
You want to be great, but will you be wicked?
the way to the power is full of crimes,
and plague on him
that begins that way doubting and then goes back.

Come on! Hurry up!
I will fire your cold heart!
I will make you able
to complete the bold undertaking.
The witches promise you
the scottish throne…
What are you waiting for?
Accept this gift! Ascend it and reign!