Wednesday, 3 August 2011

August Opera Challenge Day Three: Best Soprano

This choice will probably be viewed as a cliché by some, and there will be others who will tell me that there are more technically perfect sopranos, but I doubt any female singer will ever come close to Callas for me. I adore the dark, dramatic, ravishing depths of her voice and the way that every character she took on from Medea to Violetta was acted so beautifully through the vocal alone. You don't need any visuals when you listen to Callas- every drop of anger, fear, lust and sadness is projected around the room you are sitting in, and for that, I can easily forgive the lack of perfection. Her versatility is also something to be celebrated- which other 20th century soprano could have belted out Wagner on a Monday and turned her hand to a bit of bel canto Bellini on a Tuesday?

By the time she was really famous, her voice no longer had the brilliance of the early years, and there was that infamous little wobble going on (Callas and Giuseppe Di Stefano were compared to 'two barking dogs' during their comeback tour in the early 1970s..) but I just don't care. She was a real tragedy queen (sadly off stage as well as on) and no one moves me like Maria. I have so many favourite Callas moments, but I guess there will be plenty of opportunities to force them on you before the August Opera Challenge is over. For now, I'll pick a classic Callas moment- Casta Diva from Bellini's Norma performed in Paris, 1958. They might not be complete precision vocals, but it's a sound that's unmistakably Callas, and just hearing this, never mind looking at that iconic image, makes me feel a teensy bit more stylish.

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