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Cherubini: Medea (complete opera live 1953) with Maria Callas, Fedora Barbieri, Leonard Bernstein, Orchestra & Chorus of La Scala, Milan Live, Original recording remastered

4.2 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Live, Original recording remastered, November 5, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Leonard Bernstein learned the score to Medea in five days after another conductor fell ill. It was also the first time he worked with Maria Callas. The result is electrifying. Bernstein hardly sees the score as the "classical" composition it had been considered, and Callas agrees--this is high drama, as close to verismo as possible. The performance, taped live in 1953, is a whirlwind of emotions. Callas, at her vocal best, with high notes blazing and solid and chest voice so dangerously pushed that it's a wonder her career lasted as long as it did, is an utterly malignant Medea, spitting out her rage in a way that is almost visible. The rest of the cast is good enough (or better than that), and the La Scala forces are in a controlled frenzy. EMI has cleaned up the sound of this (previously) "private" recording and eliminated much of the applause (after her first aria, Callas received a 10-minute standing ovation). Even if you own the old, studio-recorded Callas Medea, this will open your ears to the opera anew. Simply staggering--and midprice. --Robert Levine

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Sinfonia
  2. Act One: Che? Quando Gia Corona Amor
  3. Act One: O Amore, Vieni A Me!
  4. Act One: No, Non Temer
  5. Act One: O Bella Glauce
  6. Act One: Colco! Pensier Fatal!
  7. Act One: Or Che Piu Non Vedro
  8. Act One: Ah, Gia Troppo Turbo
  9. Act One: Pronube Dive
  10. Act One: Signor! Ferma Una Donna
  11. Act One: Qui Tremar Devi Tu
  12. Act One: Taci, Giason
  13. Act One: Dei Tuoi Figli La Madre
  14. Act One: Son Vane Qui Minacce
  15. Act One: Nemici Senza Cor

Disc: 2

  1. Act Two: Introduzione
  2. Act Two: Soffrir Non Posso
  3. Act Two: Date Almen Per Pieta
  4. Act Two: Medea, O Medea!
  5. Act Two: Solo Un Pianto Con Te Versare
  6. Act Two: Creonte A Me Solo Un Giorno Da?
  7. Act Two: Figli, Miei, Miei Tesor
  8. Act Two: Hai Dato Pronto Ascolto
  9. Act Two: Ah! Triste Canto!...Dio Dell'Amor!
  10. Act Three: Introduzione
  11. Act Three: Numi, Venite A Me
  12. Act Three: Del Fiero Duol Che Il Cor Mi Frange
  13. Act Three: Neris, Che Hai Fatto
  14. Act Three: E Che? Lo Son Medea!


Product Details

  • Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
  • Composer: Luigi Cherubini
  • Audio CD (November 5, 2002)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Live, Original recording remastered
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B000069V7R
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,352 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Unlike the 1955 "Andrea Chenier" and the same year's "La Sonnambula", this Callas performance, which came a year and a half before (all three are being reissued on EMI in the current
Callas Edition series), also at La Scala, sounds quite listenable. There is none of the disfiguring distortion on loud notes that is encountered on the "Andrea Chenier" and, to a lesser extent, on the "Sonnambula".
Callas' Medea, as heard on this performance, is a Godzilla-like predator. The voice was in its most spectacular condition --- very large, powerful, and venemous. After listening to what Callas accomplishes here, one realizes why these Cherubini opera is no longer in the repertoire today. Plainly and simply, there is no one around today who could even come remotely close to what Callas brings off here. This may also be the best conducted of all the Callas Medea performances, with Leonard Bernstein's pacing and exciting tempi.
This is a performance well worth owning, and the sound is certainly one of the better Callas-live recordings. What a shame that some of the other performances issued in this series (most notably the "Andrea Chenier", "Sonnambula", and "Traviata" ---------all from La Scala in 1955, could not sound as good as this "Medea" does.
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Format: Audio CD
This EMI recording will never dare get out of print. Recorded at La Scala in the 50's it finds Maria Callas in her prime, singing with bite, feral power and dramatic commitment in a role that equalled her greater performance as Bellini's Norma. This would be her second greatest role. The rest of the cast sings well and supports her with harmonic and dramatic integrity, particularly Fedora Barbieri, one of the few mezzo-sopranos who could raise her chest voice above the orchestra. Leonard Bernstein, ranking high in the list of quality conductors of the 20th century, takes the baton in a powerful, visceral interpretation of Cherubini's originally classical/Gluckian score. Bernstein was the one conductor who stood out by pulling out all the stops and delivering tricks that were innovative. His conducting was bombastic and modern and usually strayed from the mainstream, orthodox, old-school way of conducting that such famous names as Toscanini, Stokowski and Karajan conducted. Bernstein works well with Callas, bringing out more passion and dynamics than even De Sabata or Tullio Serafin, her champion conductors, ever did. Bernstein knows that Callas was at this time at the top of the opera scene and he wholly supports her temperament and bravura in a sublime performance. Medea is based on the old Greek legend of the wife of Jason, leader of the Golden Fleece-searching Argonauts. When Jason was unfaithful, Medea became crazed with jealousy and even murders her own children. The intensity of the opera lies in Medea's emotional downward spiral, which Callas, with terrific musicianship and vocal ability gets into easily. This is a must have for fans of the diva and while I don't much care for all her roles I think that Norma, Medea and Tosca are his best roles.
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By D. Bennett on October 1, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Artists: Maria Callas, Gino Penno, Fedora Barbieri, Maria Luisa Nache et al.

Maria Callas' approach to Medea changed somewhat through her career. Here, her Medea, much like her Norma at Covent Garden in 1952, is of greater elemental strength than later in her career, compared with her portrayal at Dallas in 1958 for example, although not quite so complete. At Dallas, her voice was no longer the same dramatic soprano that graced the stage in 1953; instead, the voice is even finer on the coloratura high notes, if less secure than before, and Medea becomes less of a tigress and more `human'. However, her Medea remains remarkable at La Scala.

Gino Penno, an exciting singer, is a fine partner - he was at home in the heavier Italian repertoire e.g. Pollione (Norma), Manrico (Il Trovatore) and Ernani - several excellent "live" recordings and broadcasts of his exist; the Ernani with Cetra was particularly great.

Maria Luisa Nache was a quality singer and makes Glauce seem interesting.

Leonard Bernstein's conducting remains somewhat controversial but the result is extremely exciting and potent.

The sound is average - the chorus is tarnished by distortion and swamps just about everything else - soloists and orchestra - when at full pelt. The sound is usually adequate, if rather murky - excluding some high-notes and occasionally overpowering bass.

Recommended

D. Bennett
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By Pia on February 17, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Greek Maria Callas was and is the greatest Medea to be listened to on a recording of Cherubini's masterpiece. She has it all. A ravishing dark voice, all the colours of melancholy, sadness, hatred, madness and so forth being part of her singing. In this live-performance from 1953 her genius shines in its fullest glory. There's little I can add to the reviews already posted here. A miracle of a recording!
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Format: Audio CD
I saw her live in this role.... Just for the tenderness in "cari figli" and the BEAUTY in her youthful voice... Yet she always found the darkest colours for this tormented woman... The ONLY Medea!!! Jones, Galvany, Caballe etc. etc. not even understood this role!
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