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1954 Recording. 1954 was for Callas an exceptionally busy year. As well as appearing regularly at La Scala, Milan and elsewhere in Italy, she made her American debut at the Chicago Lyric in November. Her September 1954 Watford Town Hall sessions featured on this recording were released on two albums, one devoted to Puccini arias, not without blemishes, and the second featuring a selection entitled Coloratura Lyric Arias, which remains justly famous to this day. In the two arias from Cilea’a Adriana Lecouvreur, Callus’ interpretation benefits from her remarkably expansive breath span. In Boito’s L’altra notte Callas revolutionises performance practise: she not only correctly sings all the written notes, but she understands implicitly what the dramatic situation calls for in her treatment of the cadenzas at the end of each verse. Throughout the remarkable length of her phrases, her choice of vocal colours, her command of rubato and her dynamic range reveal much more than one had thought the music contained.
Giacomo Puccini: Manon Lescaut
Act II: In quelle trine morbide
Act IV: Sola, perduta, abbandonata
Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly
Act II: Un bel di vedremo
Act III: Con onor muore - Tu, tu piccolo iddio
Giacomo Puccini: La boheme
Act I: Si, mi chiamano Mimi
Act III: Donde lieta usci
Giacomo Puccini: Suor Angelica
Suor Angelica: Senza mamma
Giacomo Puccini: Gianni Schicchi
Gianni Schicchi: O mio babbino caro
Giacomo Puccini: Turandot
Act I: Signore, ascolta!
Act II: In questa reggia
Act III: Tu che di gel sei cinta
Francesco Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur
Act I: Ecco: Respiro appena - Io son l'umile ancella
Act IV: Poveri fiori
Umberto Giordano: Andrea Chenier
Andrea Chenier, Act III: La mamma morta
Alfredo Catalani: La Wally
La Wally, Act I: Ebben? Ne andro lontana
Arrigo Boito: Mefistofele
Mefistofele, Act III: L'altra notte in fondo al mare
“The Callas wobble appears in these 1954 recitals; in Butterfly her voice is clearly ill-suited to the role, and her Liù and Mimi are inclined to sound stagey and shrill.”
“There is a wonderful responsiveness to shades of expression and shapes of phrase… Uncanny too is the change of identity as, say, Mimì follows Butterfly.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.