Verdi - Un ballo in maschera
EMI mono 567918-2 Buy now
(131' · ADD · T/t)
Maria Callas sop Amelia, Giuseppe di Stefano ten Riccardo, Ettore Bastianini bar Renato, Eugenia Ratti sop Oscar, Giulietta Simionato contr Ulrica, Antonio Cassinelli bass Sam, Marco Stefanoni bass Tom, Giuseppe Morresi bar Silvano, Angelo Mercuriali ten Judge
La Scala, Milan Chorus and Orchestra / Gianandrea Gavazzeni
Recorded live 1957
This set comes from live performances at La Scala in the mid-1950s when the diva was at the height of her powers. Callas gives here an even more vital performance than on her studio recorded set. It was her particular genius to find exactly the appropriate mode of expression for every role she tackled. Here we have Callas the tormented, guilty wife. But she also gives us a hundred different individual inflections to reflect the emotion of the moment: indeed, as John Steane points out in one of his illuminating notes, it’s often a small aside that reveals as much about the character she’s portraying as a big set-piece.
The context of an evening in the theatre makes this a more arresting, vivid interpretation on all sides than its studio counterpart of a year earlier, with Gianandrea Gavazzeni galvanising his fine cast to great things. As John Ardoin put it in his study of Callas’s recordings: ‘The La Scala performance is sung with more vivid colours, with accents more etched and a general intensification of Verdi’s drama.’ Here the sound picture is appreciably superior to that on earlier live sets which capture Callas in other roles at La Scala. The irresistible di Stefano is the soul of vital declamation as Riccardo. Ettore Bastianini’s forthright Renato, the only role he sang in London and one of his best in an all too short career, and Giulietta Simionato’s classic Ulrica are also huge assets. Other roles are filled with house singers of the day. An unbeatable set.