Friday, April 30, 2010

Re-Visioning Callas

I have great admiration for Maria Callas (1923-1977) and recently discovered a fascinating website about her life and art called Re-Visioning Callas.

Its creator is
Marion Lignana Rosenberg, and Re-Visioning Callas is not only the title of her website but also of an award-winning article and book-in-progress. Rosenberg’s article was first published in (the now-defunct) USItalia. It won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of New York, and, says Rosenberg, “represents the germ of my project.” Following is the judges’ citation:

Maria Callas died in 1977 at age 53, but her tempestuous legend lives on. This essay is written with the same extraordinary passion and fire that characterized the opera diva’s career. Offered up on the occasion of Callas’ 80th birthday, this article acknowledges but righteously dismisses the ‘petty, salacious lore’ of the woman’s private life and celebrates the performer’s extreme dedication to her art [and] her lasting gifts to music. Whether you agree or disagree, it’s a compelling, absorbing read from start to finish. Bravo!

It is indeed. Here’s just a snippet of Rosenberg's article (with added links).

How, then, can we fittingly remember Callas? We can recall the musician who re-shaped the operatic canon, revealing the musical and dramatic integrity of works (by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and others) once dismissed as mindless showpieces for canary-like singers. We can think of the artist who, in upholding the ideals of dramma per musica, drew to the opera house directors from the so-called “legitimate” theatre, crossly informing one such colleague who demurred, “I don't want opera directors. I want directors.” Granted, there remain pockets of provincialism (New York, for example) where opera is seen as a concert in costume, an ingratiating timbre and loud high notes are mistaken for music making, and probing, high-minded productions are reserved for “respectable” (i.e. non-Italian) opera. Most everywhere else, though, Callas’s example continues to shape what audiences see and hear. This is true at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, where world-class scholarship, theatrical values, and musical prowess go hand in hand; in the best work of such singers as Juan Diego Flórez and Cecilia Bartoli; and at La Scala, where generations of artists (including Giorgio Strehler, Claudio Abbado, and Riccardo Muti) have tended the Italian operatic tradition with seriousness, love, and a spirit of discovery. Finally, we can remember the awkward little girl with a wayward voice who, through unsparing hard work, became an artist whose musicianship, glamour, and quest for dramatic truth transfix music lovers even now, some forty years after her last appearances in opera.

Rosenberg’s Re-Visioning Callas website is very comprehensive. Its accompanying blog, for instance, contains numerous insightful and scholarly articles. Also, I was happy and honored to see in the site’s links section, my website documenting and celebrating Maria Callas in Pier Pablo Pasolini’s Medea listed by Rosenberg as an “especially useful and compelling” site.

I thank Marion for her generous commendation of my site and wish her all the best in the writing and publishing of Re-Visioning Callas, the book.

If you’re a Callas fan, Re-Visiting Callas and its companion blog are essential resources. For those who are unfamiliar with the great Callas, I share this evening the following clip of her singing "Ah, non credea mirarti" from La sonnambula (Bellini). It's one of my favorite arias - and was recorded in Paris in 1965, the year of my birth. It’s taken from the 2003 DVD The Callas Conversations. I'm sure it will give you a sense of the artistry, passion, and beauty of Maria Callas.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Callas Remembered
Callas Went Away

Recommended Off-site Links:
Maria Callas: The Greatest - Tim Ashley (The Guardian, September 14, 2007).
Callas Discusses Her Art with Lord Harewood (1968)
A 1967 Interview with Maria Callas

1 comment:

mlr said...

Thank you for your kind and generous comments!