Sunday, December 18, 2005

Toujour

This film, La Callas Toujour from EMI of Maria Callas in recital at the Paris opera in 1958 is a joy. One suffers terribly from not having seen anything of her except the Tosca Act II from Ed Sullivan. Here she is in concert doing the first act of Norma, an aria from Il Trovatore and "Una voce poco fa" by Rossini. Then in the second half of the concert she performs Tosca Act II in costume with Tito Gobbi as Scarpia. What a magnificent artist.

She came equipped with this huge buzz saw voice that simply cut through everything she saw, and then she handled it with such grace and control. The brightness of her tone and the completeness of her technique, and the greatness of her musical intelligence allowed her complete control of her phrasing. "Una voce poco fa" is particularly a joy to see.

It's not a beautiful voice. Why hear this? Because you cannot keep it out. Because it takes hold of you whether you wish it to or not.

In Norma the sound of her voice makes possible this marvelous controlled performance. She never shifts into heavy chest, never descends into melodrama, always keeps her control of the phrase. In every note is perfect truth.

It is wonderful to see her acting. She shows Tosca's sweetness and vulnerability as well as her anger and strength. Watch it without the titles. She seems fragile and vulnerable herself, something I did not expect. 1958 was in the middle of her troubles with the press. One wishes there were more films.

Gobbi is also magnificent as Scarpia.

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