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Can someone well versed in opera recommend a DVD or two of Maria Callas? I haven't started looking for one, but have been listening a lot to her on youtube, and realize that her pre-mid1950's voice is at its peak. But I know nothing of the quality of any recordings, so am looking for help there. Also, is there an aria that is a "must have"? Or a full opera? I am an opera neophyte in the midst of a crash course.

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I would recommend her second studio Norma, with Christa Ludwig and Franco Corelli. She’s not in as good voice as she was in her first recorded Norma, but she sounds okay, the recording is in stereo, and the supporting cast is superior. The first studio Lucia di Lammermoor with Giuseppe di Stefano and Tullio Serafin conducting is good, and the Lucia recorded live in Berlin with Karajan conducting is wonderful (keeping the sound limitations in mind) and her Covent Garden Traviata, also live, with Rescigno conducting is lovely, too. The studio Tosca with di Stefano and Tito Gobbi with Victor de Sabata conducting is one of the most famous opera recordings ever and justly so – I love it. Buy it. You won't be sorry.

Her EMI studio recordings produced by Walter Legge are generally good, although unfortunately it’s mostly standard repertoire instead of the riesumazione bel canto she was making famous onstage (what wouldn’t I give for a good studio recording of her Anna Bolena). The ‘Manon Lescaut’ should be avoided, though.

Most of my Callas recital stuff is not on CD – they’re on LPs taped onto cassettes, as I collected most of them before they came out on CD and never bothered to buy most of them again. I would recommend buying a copy of the late John Ardoin’s “The Callas Legacy” – it came out in several editions, you’d be looking for the last one, which I think was the third but I’m not sure. In any case, it’s well worth the price and an excellent guide to her recordings. There’s a “Qui la voce” from the early fifties that’s well worth looking for.


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vagansmom, I'm an utter idiot, I read 'CD' for 'DVD' for some reason.

As with the recital albums, most of my stuff was collected during the VHS era and I haven't rushed to replace them, so I don't know if these are on DVD. The Callas documentary made by Tony Palmer is good. The film of Callas live in Paris is also good, although she has a few bad moments, and there is also a film of her later Tosca live with Gobbi. I'll have to go check my shelves for more details, titles would be helpful I'm sure, but those are the ones that spring to mind.

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Well, if someone has a giftor who wants to get his/her holiday shopping done now without leaving the house, Arkivmusic.com has the following 70-CD offering on sale for $150:

Maria Callas -- The Complete Studio Recordings

From the site,

This unique 70CD box set includes all the studio recordings Maria Callas ever made. It contains 26 complete operas, four of which are studio repeats, plus the complete studio recitals made during her recording career, from 1949 to 1969.

All titles have been remastered at Abbey Road Studios. There are new remasterings of the Fonit-Cetra recordings which were made especially for this anniversary box set: Ponchielli's La Gioconda, Verdi's La traviata, plus her first recital, featuring selections from Bellini (I puritani and Norma) and Wagner (the Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde).

The bonus CD-ROM contains libretti and translations in English, French and German, plus a Maria Callas photo library.

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Everything is made far too easy now. I had to pound the pavement hunting down some of those things.

I wouldn't really want to clog my shelves with some of those recordings, though.

No one else has any favorite Callas recordings to recommend?

Yes , I have one (well actually I have more than one......but you know what I mean...) that I would recommend. It's a recital disc from 1954 called "Lyric/Coloratura".

The program is coloratura arias and versimo arias, and includes selections from Mefistofele, Andrea Chenier, Vespri,Barber of Seville, Lakme,Dinorah and so forth. I think the idea behind it was that not many sopranos, at least in the early 50s, could sing this range of repertoire with success. And I think she is very successful, most of the coloratura is dazzling and the heavier pieces show very, very little of the problems that would compromise her singing in just a few years. I think this is a good program to suggest to someone coming to the singer and asking what she was all about.

Briefly, from her complete operas, I like the Anna Bolena, the Medea from Dallas, and the Aida from Mexico (1951, not 1950) . All these are live, not studio, recording but they are not difficut to find. EMI has at least issued the Anna Bolena.

For DVD, there is a program from Paris in 1958, where she sings a group of arias followed by the second act of Tosca. Vocally this is not perfect but she is not terribly compromised as she would be just 2-3 years later.

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For DVD, there is a program from Paris in 1958, where she sings a group of arias followed by the second act of Tosca. Vocally this is not perfect but she is not terribly compromised as she would be just 2-3 years later.

Thank you, richard53dog, I was hoping you’d pipe up.

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