To correct the review entitled "Callas is still Amazing near the end of her career!", the recordings on this CD were not made by Maria Callas in 1971. Callas made her final recordings for EMI in 1969 (including the Il Corsaro excerpts on this set.) The other items on this set were recorded in 1964-65. Although she did make further studio recordings in 1972 with Giuseppe Di Stefano for the Phillips label, those recordings remain unreleased.
And, so to my thoughts on "Verdi Arias III"...
Though Callas is perhaps more often associated with Bellini (Norma or Amina), Donizetti (Lucia or Anna Bolena) or Puccini (Tosca), it is the music of Verdi that she most often recorded, committing 6 of his heroines to disc in complete recordings and recording two complete recitals dedicated to his work (1958's "Portrays Verdi Heroines" and 1964's "Callas Sings Verdi.") It was following the recording of her second Verdi recital that Callas began her third recital disc with the material from "Il Trovatore", "Un Ballo in Maschera", "Aida" and "I Vespri Siciliani", all roles she had performed on stage along with the extracts from "I Lombardi" and "Attila." For whatever reason, the recordings were not released at the time. Then, in 1969 after a four year recording hiatus, Callas returned to the studio for more Verdi including the "Il Corsaro" pieces included on this disc. Again, the material was not released at the time.
In 1972, Callas allowed some of this material to be released for the first time on the album "Maria Callas By Request." The balance of this material would be released in 1978, a year after her death, on the album "The Legend." Now, all the Verdi on those two albums has been combined into this release.Read more ›
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How amazing it is, that during the time this recording was made (1971), Callas was still able to sing these arias with glimmers of glory that made her the Prima Donna Assoluta del Mondo. Her low, chesty notes could impress, and although her high notes were unsteady at this point, they still reflected a myriad of colors belonging only to such a great timbre of a voice. Callas, as Rescigno said, was the female voice. Her talent for breaking down music into phrases for studying, and her ability to color each and every syllable, is simply impressive. One may not think of Ritorna Vincitor as an ideal aria for the condition of her voice at this stage of her career, but what a Ritorna Vincitor it is! Personally, I do not think this rendition of the aria could better her early performances from Mexico and London, so well preserved on other records, but it does in a way outshine the mono recording she makes with Serafin. In fact, I do believe that her interpretation here is much much better than the studio recording of the opera made when her voice was not the thin, bel canto voice that had been the subject of much controversy. Of course, this studio recording with Rescigno was done when she was already incapable of playing much with her instrument. She was just about ready to leave that day, but Rescigno brought a recording made by Regina Crespine, and this blew Callas' top off and provoked her to record a more proper way of singing Verdi and Ritorna. Truly amazing. But still, this recital is a must have for any collector. All these Verdi arias were well-tailored, of course, to suit the deterioration that had horrified us when the voice had begun to fade away, but she undoubtedly still held the genius that made her special. Her aria from I Vespri Siciliani will amaze you, as it showcases the lowest recorded note in her career. She truly had a three octave voice. And you know what? She was the greatest artist of the century, no matter how flawed and tattered her voice was.