|When Callas sing Puccini, I hear Callas. Her voice is inescapable. If the tonal qualities of soprano voices are described in terms of precious metals, the richness of gold, the purity of silver, the instrument that Callas possessed is watered steel the secret metal of edged weapons from Damascus, Toledo and the Katana makers of Japan. Like these weapons, prized for their preternatural sharpness and polish, Ms. Callas instrument is also marked by the characteristic texture of watered steel, a faint wave-pattern of alternating dark and light stripes that makes it unmistakable.
To mark the 150th anniversary of Puccinis birth, EMI is re-releasing the best of a collection of the great divas studio and live performance recordings: 24 arias on 2 Cds. The 11 studio arias from Manon Lescaut and La Bohème are roles she never actually performed on stage. The 5 Tosca arias are Callas in her best voice. These and the 5 arias from Turandot allow Callas to reveal the tensions coiled within her nature: fiery sensuality, the melting tenderness, the shrewish jealousy, the imperious iciness. Mimis death scene in Bohème is made all the more convincing for the shrillness that edges her voice; Callas innate sense of drama makes the suicide of Cio-Cio San in Butterfly a singular experience.
by Stanley Fefferman April 2009