CALLAS' PIRATA' AT CARNEGIE HALL
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Another opera that Callas should have recorded under studio conditions, "Il Pirata" is a frequently exciting opera with some very good music. This recording comes from a live performance at Carnegie Hall on January 25, 1959, and while the sound is not exactly what one would call "state-of-the-art", it is certainlyis tolerable. In the very dramatic and demanding role of Imogene, Callas is thrilling. She is not in as good voice as she still could have been at this period, with wiry and abrasive top notes effecting some of the climaxes. Nevertheless, what she delivers is top drawer, and the audience present knows that it is hearing something quite astonishing. The final 25 minute Mad Scene alone is sufficient reason to own this performance. As was usually the case at this period, Callas' male support does not come anywhere near her level of performance. The tenor and baritone are routine, but when they sing with Callas, they somehow seem better than they actually are. Nicola Resigno conducts a rough-and-ready performance which is on the fast side, but music profits from it and it increases the tension. There is no other recording which captures Callas in this role, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the bel canto repertoire, or, of course, in the career and art of Maria Callas."
AN IMPORTANT DOCUMENT OF CALLAS IN LIVE PERFORMANCE
L. Mitnick | Chicago, Illinois United States | 02/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Maria Callas performed this opera at La Scala during the 1957-1958 season, with Franco Corelli and Ettore Bastianini as her partners. Unfortunately, it was not recorded. In January, 1959, however, Callas performed this opera in a concert version at Carnegie Hall under the auspices of the American Opera Society. This is a a live recording of that performance. To begin with, the tenor and baritone here do not begin to approach Corelli or Bastianini. Secondly, the opera is somewhat cut to essentials. What remains is Callas, who is, of course, the centerpiece of this performance. By this time Callas had attained a reputation unrivalled by any opera singer ever, having just been fired from the Metropolitan Opera, her appearance in this performance caused near riots by those trying to get tickets for what was to be her only appearance in New York that year.
And what do we get here? Actually, a reasonably good representation of Bellini's opera, with Callas giving a searing and vaulting performance, expecially of the final Mad Scene. Her voice, as heard here, is somewhat harsh, thorny, and strident on the uppermost notes. No question about it ---- the decline is obvious, but her musicianship and sheer intelligence makes this music soar. Technically, she is still superb, executing some difficult cadenzas with relative ease. Sustained top notes are another matter. By the time she gets to the final Mad Scene, her voice settles and, like a master violinst, negotiates the long scene with great command and authority ------ even including a long sustained top C at the conclusion. Nicola Resigno paces the opera in a no-nonsence fashion, and the result is a pretty taut presentation. The sound is actually pretty decent, considering it's source. All in all, it's a pretty decent representation of Maria Callas in one of her more notable revivals."
Memorable Callas in an unworthy production
Armindo | Greece | 02/05/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I revisited this recording before and after attending a Pirata performance last month. Maybe because of Rescigno, maybe because of the second-rate tenor and baritone, I wasn't excited by this recording. I thought it was because of the work but the live performance proved it wasn't.
Maria Callas as Imogene is the obvious reason to get this performance and what a pleasure it is to hear her relaxing her throat and allowing Bellini's music to flow. Her best work is in the recitatives and lyrical passages. I love it when she sings lower notes with more care. While the downward leaps and fioriture are always so spectacular with this singer. Unfortunately highest notes were by that time often strenuous, and wobbly, especially in faster sections but I wouldn't want her to avoid them. The opening scene is very good as are some duets but the most touching moment of the performance is Col sorisso d'innocenza. A thing of beauty and sorrow even though I was disappointed that she didn't float the last note and chose to push it. The final cabaletta was strangely tasteless for Callas; the ornaments didn't sound very comfortable or well prepared. Still, there is enough to enjoy elsewhere.
Once past Callas, there isn't much to make me listen to this recording again. What a nasty vocal role this Gualtiero. I've yet to find a tenor who faced all the challenges successfully. I bet Corelli was exciting but dread to think how all the florid passages sounded (if he didn't avoid them that is). Miranda-Ferraro has a rather unpleasant voice and doesn't grace the melodies, nor does he sing the fioriture accurately. He's certainly better than Marti next to Caballe's Imogenes but I guess anyone is. Constantino Ego in the important role of Ernesto is as adequate as Mirranda-Ferraro, if not worse. It feels they were just called so that Callas could sing Imogene.
Rescigno is more excited that he's working with Callas than he's conducting Il Pirata so don't expect much from the orchestra.
Seeing Pirata live made me realise that there is so much more to this opera that what we hear here so three stars is what this recording gets from me."