Maria Callas

Maria Callas 100 Best Classics

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EMI's generous compilation of 100 tracks from its archive of recordings by Maria Callas makes a fine introduction to her legacy. Callas' voice isn't consistent throughout, but when she's at her best, it's easy to hear the musical and dramatic power that made her the most legendary opera singer of the 20th century. She is impressive often enough that it's not hard to forgive the performances that are less than stellar. The six-disc collection is intelligently organized, with each disc dedicated to a particular composer (or several composers) or a theme: Bellini; Donizetti and Rossini; Verdi; Puccini; French operatic heroines; and dramatic heroines. Particularly on the discs dedicated to composers the tracks come from complete recordings of the operas and it's gratifying to be able to hear her ability to flesh out a role based on more than a single aria. The operas included encompass both soprano and mezzo-soprano roles. Among the most satisfying selections are those taken from Carmen, La sonnambula, Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Aida. In some of the excerpts, Callas is joined by some of the most illustrious singers of her generation, including Tito Gobbi, Giuseppe di Stefano, Fiorenza Cossotto, Anna Moffo, Richard Tucker, Christa Ludwig, and Nicolai Gedda. The conductors include her mentor, Tullio Serafin, Nicola Rescigno, Herbert von Karajan, and Georges Prêtre. EMI provides useful information about the performers and the dates of performance so that dedicated listeners can track down the sources of these selections. The recordings were made between 1953 and 1965, including some live performances, so the sound quality varies considerably, but it's mostly very good and never bad enough to get in the way of the music.

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