If it were not for Maria Callas, we would all think that La Forza del Destino is essentially a prime exercise and showcase for great soprano voices, with a few goodies thrown in for the rest of the cast and the chorus. In this recording, Callas’s voice is not technically great, though it is usually good. She makes most of her points by other means: close attention to the value of words, subtle nuances of tone and phrasing, an uncompromising determination to confront the emotions in the text and convey them honestly and strongly, even when they reach a terrifying intensity. We have here, under the absurdities of plot, a compelling psychological portrait of a woman driven beyond her limits–a woman whose brother wants to kill her lover, who has killed her father. The supporting cast is skilled and Serafin shapes a powerful interpretation. — Joe McLellan
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Performer: Maria Callas, Richard Tucker, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, Renato Capecchi, Plinio Clabassi
Orchestra: Teatro Alla Scala Di Milano
Conductor: Tullio Serafin
Number of Discs: 3
Size: 1.75 GB
This recording has generated many varied personal opinions and sometimes rather more heat than light. Forget all that. There are really only two significant facts to keep in mind about this version of “La forza del destino”: it is the Callas “Forza,” therefore it is important; it is Serafin’s “Forza,” therefore it represents absolute authenticity in the Italian operatic style. On the basis of those two things, and those two things alone, a rating of five stars is fully justified.
I side with those who assign merit to this “Forza” over and above the appearance of Callas and Serafin. In particular, I think Tucker offers a fine Alvaro. I am not in the slightest bit dismayed by his emotionalism in the role. Frankly, it suggests an involvement with the drama, a quality sadly lacking in too many contemporary tenors, with their cool and bland performing styles.
I have to agree with those who say that Carlo Tagliabue was in younger, better voice thirteen years earlier in the wartime recording of “Forza.” (In that recording, by the way, the Italians quiety deferred to the sensibilities of their allies by changing Preziosilla’s “Death to the Germans!” to “Death to the enemies!”) On the other hand, Tagliabue still sounds pretty good, and I find no problem with Don Carlo di Vargas as a middle-aged avenger rather than a youthful one.
If Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, whom I saw on stage on a handful of occasions was not a great singer, he was certainly a good one. He was a strong actor who could get into the soul and truth of a role, as he does here with the Padre Guardiano.
Capecchi offers a solid performance as Fra Melitone, all the better for his restored scene. The rest of the cast consists of familiar and competent house singers for La Scala in the mid-1950s. To my taste, the only below-par performance is that of Elena Nicolai. I conceive of Preziosilla as small, dangerously attractive and quite young. She is, in short, the soul-sister of that pert and dangerously attractive young miss who appeared on thousands of copies of a famous First World War-era poster, demanding that passing young men instantly join the U.S. Navy. Nicolai, who might well have been fine in other parts, sounds distinctly middle-aged and more than a little paunchy as the inflammatory Gypsy girl.
Leonora di Vargas was the very first Verdi heroine that Callas ever portrayed on stage. She sang the part on a number of occasions in the early part of her career but it was hardly one of her core roles. I have said that the simple fact of capturing Callas’ Leonora makes this recording important, and it does. Nevertheless, in my opinion, Callas is not the best Leonora on record. It seems to me that Callas has over-intellectualized her approach to the desperately unhappy Miss Vargas. Others may certainly disagree, pointing out the many and subtle shadings Callas gives to Leonora as she moves from calamity to final catastrophe. To me, though, it seems that Verdi put all the necessary drama right in the score and required no add-ons from a clever singing actress. In that score I hear Verdi demanding no more and no less from a singer than that she have a superhuman voice to go with a larger-than-life personality and that she march resolutely to the foot of the stage from time to time to blow an adoring audience out of their seats. For this kind of simple-minded, stand-and-deliver singing, Callas is no match for Maria Caniglia and Zinka Milanov of the preceding generation or of Renata Tebaldi of her own.
As for the opera, “La forza del destino,” I shall say no more than as late middle-period Verdi, it is great and bursting with power … although some might find its grim and unyielding libretto to be something of a downer, which is probably why it is not offered on stage as often as it should be.
Analyzed folder: /96k(Mono)Verdi – La Forza Del Destino – Callas
DR Peak RMS Filename
DR13 -0.28 dB -19.15 dB sideA.aif
DR11 -1.10 dB -16.34 dB sideB.aif
DR15 -0.54 dB -21.77 dB sideC.aif
DR14 -0.76 dB -20.24 dB sideD.aif
DR12 -1.09 dB -17.47 dB sideE.aif
DR12 -0.92 dB -17.30 dB sideF.aif
Number of files: 6
Official DR value: DR13
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