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Maria Callas Month at Radio România Muzical

Monday, 27 November 2023 , ora 10.41

100 years since the birth of one of the most famous and appreciated voices of all time - Maria Callas, born on the 2nd of December 1923.

The two opera broadcasts on Radio România Muzical have prepared special editions in December, which are dedicated to the Maria Callas phenomenon: Opera Evening with Luminița Arvunescu (Saturday, 7 pm) and Opera in landmark performances (Sunday, 9 pm).

Opera Evening

Luminița Arvunescu: From December 2nd to December 30th, every Saturday, Opera Evening offers you 5 special editions dedicated to La Divina Maria Callas: the artist who reinvented the operatic performance by adding an important theatrical dimension to it.

I'll talk about Callas - the tragedian. But also about Callas- the woman lost in a world she didn't understand at all, the vestal and the artist in love, capable of giving up her career in her most glorious years. I'll try to reconstruct the story of the Callas woman and the History of the most fascinating voice in the History of Opera...

As musical material, I'll use:

-RAI recordings of the "Martini e Rossi" concerts - relevant to her early years (1949-1952) - DECCA recordings (DECCA had exclusive rights to the Callas heritage).

- 5 of her most important studio recordings, which highlight her artistic journey:

"La Gioconda" (1952) - her first full-length recording;

"Medea" (1953) - illustrates her encounter with Leonard Bernstein;

"Norma" (1954) - achievements under the baton of Tullio Serafin;

"La Traviata" (1958) - essential to the discography of this opera;

And I conclude with "Tosca" (1965) - the last important recording of her career.

Opera in Landmark Performances

Irina Vasilescu: The year 2023 marks, in the world of opera, the centenary of the birth of one of the most famous artists of all time - Maria Callas. The moment is celebrated worldwide with a wide variety of grand events. In Athens, the city where Callas lived, studied and sang for much of her youth, a museum dedicated to her has opened. Here visitors can see over 1,300 exhibits, including the singer's school album, books and sheet music, dresses and photographs from performances. Some of these pieces have been donated by important opera houses where Maria Callas sang throughout her career: La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan in New York, La Fenice in Venice and the Arenas in Verona, where she made her Italian debut in 1947. Also in Athens, but at the Megaron Concert Hall, the public can visit another exhibition dedicated to Callas, while musically the institution is dedicating an entire season to the soprano. The film industry is not letting the event go unnoticed either: next year we will be able to watch a biopic featuring Maria Callas, played in Chilean director Pablo Larrain's film by actress Angelina Jolie. The title of the film is Maria.

And we, at Radio România Muzical, are dedicating a series of special broadcasts to the soprano born on December 2nd, 1923.

At the Opera in Landmark Performances you can hear, on three Sunday evenings (December 3rd, 10th and 17th), complete operas featuring Maria Callas. In this first special edition I wanted to present a little-known recording from Callas' discography, but one that is extremely significant for the beginning of her career: Richard Wagner's Parsifal. We know and love Callas mostly as a performer of bel canto scores by Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini, and for her appearances in Verdi and Puccini roles, but Callas also sang Wagner, especially in her youth. She was Isolde in Tristan and Isolde, Brünnhilde in Valkyrie and Kundry in Parsifal. The recording we're listening to on December 3rd, 2023, at 9 p.m. shows us a Callas just 26 years old in one of the most complex female Wagner roles: that of Kundry, a hundred-year-old woman condemned to travel the world to receive forgiveness for mocking Christ on the cross. She comes under the influence of the evil magician Klingsor and must help him destroy the Grail Knights. Those of you familiar with Maria Callas' performances will not be surprised to find that the soprano is perfectly capable of handling the score, both vocally and interpretively, despite her youth. This performance of Wagner's last opera, recorded for Italian public radio (and in Italian!) at the end of 1950, was the moment of Callas' parting from the world of Wagner. The year before, while singing Isolde in Venice, Callas had been encouraged by the conductor Tullio Serafin to accept the (colouratura) role of Elvira in Bellini's Puritans on very short notice. Maria Callas' decision to accept the challenge set a new direction for her career.

That's why the next edition of Opera in Landmark Performances on the 10th of December 2023 brings you Puritans, one of the turning points in Maria Callas' vocal and professional development. A print with Tullio Serafin conducting and Giuseppe di Stefano as her stage partner. The Italian tenor was one of the singer's most important collaborators.

The last broadcast dedicated to Maria Callas will be on the 17th of December 2023 with Giuseppe Verdi's Aida, conducted by Tullio Serafin. Here, her partner in the role of Radames was the famous tenor Richard Tucker.

Translated by Cătălina Colibaba,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu