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Maria Meneghini Callas Paperback – August 24, 1992

3.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a biography for serious Callas (1923-1977) students, Scott ( The Great Caruso ) traces the career of the controversial diva from her teenage appearances as a budding prima donna through the triumphs of the early 1950s to later years when Callas's voice was increasingly frail. Pointing out the "contradiction between the depth of Callas's extraordinary musicianship and the narrowness of her intellect," Scott plays down the sensational aspects of his subject's personal life and concentrates on her artistic genius. He analyzes her major performances and recordings, defining the prodigious talent and technique that, at the height of her vocal powers, she put to brilliant use in reviving the nearly forgotten early-19th-century bel canto opera repertoire. Scott's description of the rapid deterioration of her voice from the mid-'50s to her death adds a contrasting poignancy to the chronicle. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

One can scarcely imagine a more detailed scrutiny of the great soprano's career than that in the present volume, written by the founder of the London Opera Society. Virtually every performance is chronicled, along with the attendant backstage gossip and intrigue. Although she died in 1977, Callas's greatest years as an opera singer are shown to coincide with her marriage to Giovanni Battista Meneghini, which lasted from 1948 until she left him for Aristotle Onassis in 1959. At that point, almost in Dorian Gray fashion, she became a jet-set celebrity whose glamor grew as her voice faded. The author, artistic director of the London Opera Society and author of several books on opera (e.g., The Great Caruso , LJ 9/15/88), includes authoritative discussions of Callas's recordings and firsthand accounts of many performances. Although general readers are likely to be put off by the shop talk, this is indispensable reading for opera buffs. For serious music collections.
- E. Gaub, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 24, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671711601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671711603
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,445,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By klavierspiel VINE VOICE on November 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Michael Scott's book on the life and career of Maria Callas holds a strong appeal for the musician. Although he orders his study chronologically and includes quite a bit of biographical detail, this is not a book for gossip lovers. Instead, Scott dispassionately evaluates Callas' singing in general and major performances and roles in particular.
Scott's basic thesis is that Callas reached her vocal peak early, in the first part of the 1950s, and her great weight loss was in large part responsible for a general vocal decline thereafter, at first slow, then precipitous after her divorce from Meneghini.
At times his viewpoint provides a useful corrective to stories that have been handed down and repeated that are not exactly true--his take on the infamous Rome Norma of January 1958 is a striking example. His opinion that the root cause of many of the "scandals" that dogged her career was escalating vocal trouble certainly deserves serious consideration.
On the other hand, Scott is too quick to dismiss much of Callas' work from the later 1950s. By then, the early, prodigious vocal endowment had somewhat diminished, true; but for most opera lovers these years were the time when her still responsive voice was matched with her most exquisite musicianship.
Most readers will disagree, perhaps vehemently, with some of Scott's judgements and opinions; yet, by virtue of his firsthand witnessing of many of Callas' performances and determined avoidance of scandalmongering, his book joins a select company of work by Fitzgerald, Ardoin, Jellinek and a few others as one that sheds true light on the art of this much-discussed singer.
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Format: Hardcover
Scott's book is certainly important, even indispensable, for anyone interested in Callas as a musician and a singer. Any book on Callas that doesn't focus on her music is, let's face it, ultimately doing her a disservice. Scott's book covers late and early performances, gives a performance chronology, lists notable recordings, includes contemporary reviews and relevant (and fairly reliable) apt quotes from various personages: fellow singers (di Stefano, often), her directors (Visconti, Zeffirelli), and her conductors. He also weaves in an appropriate balance of biographical detail, noting her weight loss and relationships and their affect on her voice and work, but not capitalizing on sensationalism. Most importantly, he provides a commentary on all her important recorded works.

The weakness of this book, however, is that Scott has his own dogma about Callas that he's determined to get across, and his dogma isn't correct. Scott's premises are that Callas, as a singer, peaked in the early 50s and rapidly declined; that Callas, the artist, was best when she acted on instinct and did not intellectualize a role; and that her development as an artist was far from commensurate to her regression as a singer. I take issue to varying degrees with all of these. The first is least disputable, though Scott's assertions lack subtlety. Certain parts of the passagio and vowel sounds ('a' as in the Italian 'va') became easier and clearer immediately after the weight loss. Scott's handling of his second premise is discouraging. He is certainly entitled to his opinions, but as he is masquerading this book as a critical work, he needs to be more objective. A prime example of this is his dismissal of Callas's 1955 Lucia.
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Format: Hardcover
This book can seem rather controversial for some people, since it is highly critical (in the positively objective sense of the word) of Maria Callas, who has been deified by a number of her other biographers.

Maria Callas was a human being, which means that she had a private life as well as a career. For some people her private life seems very interesting and these readers will probably be somewhat disappointed with this book, since the biography of Callas the private person is only of second importance in Michael Scott's book.

But if you are interested in Callas the musician there is no other book that is more accurate, more peercing in its analysis - or simply, more interesting! When I first read the book I worshipped Callas uncritically. I was very offended several times because of Scott's judgement, for instance of her "Madama Butterfly": "Callas' reading of "Un bel dì" may be remarkable for the finish of her phrasing but not for the beauty of her singing...". But yet, this is so much more revealing and again, objective, than when John Ardoin writes in "The Callas Legacy" of the same role: "...Callas' voice seems a vessel which can be filled or drained to various levels of intensity at will".

So to me, this is the best book about Callas available - after all, what gives her importance is her abilities as a musician, NOT a tragedy queen!
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Format: Hardcover
This is the best book on Callas currently available. And do you want to know why?
Because it concentrates on Callas the Musician.
Not Callas the supposedly famous workaholic. Of course she rehearsed all hours of the day and night, what was the alternative? The leering Meneghini? Did she sleep with him often? I bet she did! You can't stay at La Scala rehearsing all day. Mercifully not Santa Maria di Galatopulos either. Nor Callas the cheapskate who has been mugged by her friends with sawdust filled socks,[Stancioff and Robert Sutherland], Still less Little Maria the tiresome daughter, sister, cousin! wife.
Callas the musician, whose voice disintegrated while she was singing. Callas who sang for a short time in Europe and America for about a decade or so after the end of the war. Callas, who, while mouthing platitudes about being faithful to 'the composer' didn't hesitate to take the scissors to score after score. Callas who stopped singing to go on a cruise and didn't see the opera world speed up and got sadly stranded.
Scott clearly loves Callas, and is refreshingly clear sighted about her. He is not blind to her faults, vocal or otherwise, and it's time someone shot down the image of Walter Legge as Callas's recording Svengali. She'd have been better off staying at Cetra almost. There are some strange double standards in opera. For years people carped about Joan Sutherland's choice of her husband as her conductor, but no-one ever thinks to quibble about Rescigno's Charlie McArthur like contribution to Callas' art. Listen to Callas's recordings with Tonini and hear the difference.
There are a few inaccuracies in this book, more editorial than factual, but I can live with them.
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