Maria Callas, Maria Callas, 1952 – 1954: The RAI Recitals

Marion Lignana Rosenberg

By Marion Lignana Rosenberg

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Essential recordings capture the iconic soprano at her dizzying peak

Four decades after her last appearance on the operatic stage, Maria Callas remains the bestselling and most controversial opera singer of all time. Detractors complain that her dark, haunting voice was not conventionally beautiful, but as John Ardoin wrote in The Callas Legacy, "[Callas'] was a voice that was better than beautiful, for it was a voice that once heard could not easily be forgotten." These concert performances from 1952-54 capture Callas at her peak. They include the finest recording ever made of "Marten aller Arten" from Mozart's "Abduction from the Seraglio" (sung in Italian), whose long, ornate lines Callas infuses with defiance and rage; "Anch'io dischiuso" from Verdi's "Nabucco," in which her artistry embraces both the elemental fury of the recitative and the graceful filigree of the aria; and Lady Macbeth's entrance from Macbeth, where Callas's voice smolders with the "devilish" sounds that Verdi desired.