"The historical setting of the confllict between King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn provided Donizetti with his "Anna Bolena", and Maria Callas with one of her greatest roles. This is still another opera that Callas should have recorded in the studio, but since she didn't, we are lucky to have this live 1957 La Scala broadcast of the famous revival. The sound isn't great, but it's much better than many other performances of this genre. Callas is in as good vocal form as she could be expected to be in 1957, in other words, very good indeed. She plays the martyred and injured queen for all she's worth, and the effect is riveting. Callas was also fortunate in having at her side the great Italian mezzo Gulietta Simionato, who, as Jane Seymour, her rival for the affections of Henry, sings magnificently, matching Callas note for note in the great duet in Act II.Simionato also does some very wonderful singing on her own. Nicola Rossi-Lemeni is a menacing Henry and Gianni Raimondi is a lyrical Percy, Anna's great friend and confidante. Gavazzeni's conducting is taut and appropriate intense. It is fortunate that EMI issued this performance on its Callas Edition series. The performance, by the way, is somewhat cut down to essentials, which was in keeping with the performance standards of the time. Very strongly recommended."
WOW! And this from a Gruberova-Fan!
DivinaEdita | 01/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I never thought ANYONE could surpass my beloved Edita as Anna Bolena (I heard her live) but this just DID IT! I do prefer Gruberova in several roles but Callas OWNS Anna Bolena now. The best performance imaginable with a fantastic cast and a brilliant conductor! BRAVA!"
Reviving a rarity - Callas ultimate La Scala triumph
Elliana | 01/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A critic once called this his desert island recording. I'd like to repeat that. Even though it was already in the late fifties (Her 1956 Lucia wasn't very good, the 1955 was much better) here Callas had a top night. No wobbles, no screamed high notes and she is simply on fire. The problem here are the cuts and that is why my Nr. 1 Anna Bolena recording is the Sills-recording (Whose intensity was equally stunning) but I also LOVE this one. Callas sounds so beautiful in the duet with Giovanna... (The EXCELLENT Simionato) and her "Al dolce guidami" is dulcet indeed. I wonder why Gianni Raimondi never got more famous. He's an AMAZING Percy. The sound is pretty good for its time... IMHO no opera-collection is complete without it. (And the Sills-rec)"
Belcanto at its very best!
Tutzi | 01/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If this recording were uncut it would be heaven... But at this time it was a miracle that this rarity was performed at all, because Callas requested it. Callas sings a fantastic Anne, Simionato is the best Giovanna and Rossi-Lemeni has much authority as Henry VIII. This is still the greatest "Anna Bolena"."
Callas at her absolute peak
Vincent Lau | 02/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm always of the view that Callas reached her absolute peak as a dramatic singing actress with this legendary production of ANNA BOLENA at La Scala. In 1957, Callas's vocal decline was just around the corner but, judging from the evidence of this live recording, she was then still in remarkable vocal form. Indeed, her voice, her impressive dramatic gift and musicianship are heard here in almost perfect equilibrium and these combine to form an all-rounded and three-dimensional portrait of the heroine, a woman of flesh and blood caught in the midst of those internecine disputes which plagued the English Court, but who also possesses great nobility and a palpable sense of tragic grandeur even when her fate is sealed. Indeed, every word that Callas sings tells and her inflection and tone colouring are not only apt, they are often insightful and illuminating. Her plaintive tone in the more poignant passages can make a stone weep and her unique accentuations of the texts can tug at one's heart. On the other hand, she never sacrifices the music for the sake of overt histrionics and her legato singing and the way she shapes and sculpts the long phrases are things to marvel at. She is in such fine vocal form that not only is she able to cap the ensemble at the end of Act I with a clarion top D, her performance of the very demanding final scene is a vocal tour de force that is imbued with a wide palette of emotions. All in all, it is sublime performance that is not only vocally awesome, but is also shattering in its emotional impact.Callas has a worthy partner in Simionato's Giovanna (Jane Seymour), as the latter is in imposing vocal form throughout. Although Giovanna is not a well-developed character in the opera, Simionato succeeds in making the most out of it. Her arias are stylishly delivered and her coloratura singing is generally excellent. She can definitely hold her own against Callas in the crucial duet in Act II, where she also has a high C to spare at the end.Gianni Raimondi, although in good voice and possesses a secure top, is a rather faceless Percy, and no matter how regal Nicola Rossi Lemeni might have looked on stage as Henry VIII, his tone is here smaller than usual and rather frayed at the edges. By contrast, Gabriella Carturan is an appealing Smeton which makes one regret that some of her arias have been excised. Gianandrea Gavazzeni is an idiomatic Donizettian and he's able to propel the music forward with verve. Nevertheless, it is not the most insightful of readings. The La Scala chorus is not always very neat in their singing.As this is a live recording, there are obvious sonic limitations. However, this shouldn't prevent the listener from admiring the performance, which is definitely one of the great nights at La Scala. Besides, such technical deficiencies would pale into insignificance before Callas's unforgettable portrayal. Highly recommended!"