Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Vincenzo Bellini, Guido Picco, Maria Callas|
Bellini: Norma (Callas's Mexican Début)
Listen to Samples
Badly done remastering of a (not-so) great performance
Dare | Paris France | 11/29/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is not a recording to become acquainted with NORMA or Callas. Digital remastering is badly done on an already dim original source and although '24-bit transfer from original masters', they didn't do anything good to refine it and clean it up. The sound is excessively hazy and under-water, with plenty of rhythmical hiss (makes me suspect an LP source was used)and the voices (women!)sometimes distorted up to a point when they become barely recognizable (Callas, Simionato and their top!). You have to turn off all your pre-set sound effects to be able to enjoy, partially at least, the grandeur of Callas delivery. If interested, you should turn rather to the Urania pressing to enjoy 'the true voice of the young Callas', as stated on the Enterprise cover. However they do provide a full libretto in Italian (which Urania does not) and an interesting documentation about the beginnings of the Callas career (in English), along with lots of new (to me at least) photographs of the young singer.This is the earliest of Callas NORMA recordings and chronologically second only to 1949 Naples NABUCCO complete recording. One is amazed to listen to the 26-year old singer and to realize her legendary portrayal is already all there and enhanced by her fabulous juicy pre-diet voice. So you have Callas bursting out of vocal health, coloring vocal phrases with an infinite number of possibilities, and there is absolutely no hint of a wobble in her top register (which will start to mar her performances from 1955 onwards). All the notes are rock-solid and dead-center. Yes, there is a hint of nervousness in her Act I entrance (after all, it's a debut on a then extremely important stage), but this is resolved quickly. But what is the most exciting and rewarding in Callas is the characterization in purely vocal terms. My favourite moment is the soprano/tenor duet 'In mia man alfin tu sei' when Callas faces an over-assertive Pollione, Kurt Baum. He is a dull, undistinguished singer who doesn't bother to learn the text (continuing lapses of memory!) and his entries, but nevertheless has ringing top notes and he takes all the optional ones and in duets he HAS to be the last to leave the high note. A circus mentality! - Surprisingly, Simionato's Adalgisa also leaves you with mixed expression, lacking finesse and security and she has yet to become the subtle Adalgisa of the 1955 La Scala performance. The 'Druid' duos with Callas are strong, but not as refined as they would become. The performance shows it has been under-rehearsed with the orchestra, chorus and soloists sometimes sailing apart, false entries etc.If you are after a unique historic document, there may be something in it for you (on Urania!). But if you are looking for NORMA, especially with Callas, stay away and try elsewhere. For example, there is the 1955 Callas Rome NORMA available on Opera d'Oro with the legendary Serafin conducting and you can get as much enjoyment as one can have for a fraction of cost."