This is one of Callas’ most famous roles. Callas was born to play monumentally tragic, misunderstood characters such as the mythical Medea who was driven to such depths of despair by her husband’s betrayal that she killed their joint children just to punish him. I do not imply any naive emotional parallels to Callas’ own tragic and misunderstood life, but the strength of Callas’ characterization of Medea in this opera is certainly remarkable.
# Composer: Luigi Cherubini
# Performer: Maria Meneghini Callas, Alfredo Giacommotti, Elvira Galassi, Giuseppe Modesti, Lidia Marimpietri, Miriam Pirazzini, Mirto Picchi, Renata Scotto
# Orchestra: Orchestra of the Teatro Alla Scala di Milano
# Conductor: Tullio Serafin
# Vinyls (1957)
# Format: Flac
# Number of discs: 3
# Label: Mercury
# DR-Analysis: DR 13
# ASIN CD: B00000630T
# Size: 1.26 GB
# Scan: yes
# Server: FileFactory
Those who know anything about opera will, of course, know of Maria Callas: the voice, the fame, and the painful downfall; however, they will also know of her most important roles: Norma, Violetta, Tosca and Medea. Medea is the opera that brought Callas her first major European success at the Florence Music Festival under the baton of Vittorio Gui in 1953, and her live version from La Scala under Leonard Bernstein ranks among one of the most important recordings of her career. The La Scala performance and that recorded live at the Dallas opera in 1958 are Callas’ most famous recordings of the role of Medea, and her studio version is often overlooked by many opera aficionados; however, it remains a priceless treasure because the static and extra noise of a “live” recording is removed and nothing remains except the music and the voice.
This recording, made in 1957, is quite sedate when compared to those made in Milan and Dallas, but far outstrip the others in clarity and beauty. Callas remarked during her Julliard Master’s Class that Medea most be taken on the “lean side” and not the fat side in order not to sound like an animal, and one wonders whether or not Callas took her own advice during her live performances, but this studio version remains a testament to such a theory. Because Callas tones down the histrionics a bit, the listener is able to not only appreciate the beauty of the role, but also the beauty of Cherubini’s score. Serafin’s conducting is nothing short of fabulous and when paired to Callas, it is sublime.
Some might argue that the terror and fire of the live performances would be lost in a recording such as this, but it must be quite clear that because Callas is more tame in version, her explosions of anger and fury are twice as frightening then when she is a wild creature all the way through. When one doesn’t expect the fireworks they become all the more explosive and terrifying.
The assembled supporting cast is also without fault in this recording, luckily, for Callas was often plagued by many horrible co-stars. The Neris of Renata Scotto is second to none, and Mirto Picchi is splendid Jason (he also played Pollione in Callas’ Covent Garden debut Norma in 1952); while he is not quite the Jason of Jon Vickers, his powerful and clarion voice leave nothing to be desired.
The “Chest Register” of the leading lady must also be addressed if one is talking about Medea. The power of Callas’ chest register was once compared to the contralto Chloe Elmo by one of the diva’s costars, and is often discussed in relation to this opera. Medea is an opera less concerned with the fire of coloratura and more with the power of the middle register,and Callas displays her abilities with a power unrivaled by any other twentieth century soprano. Her display in the last ten minutes of the opera is worth the price of the whole opera: Medea has come completely undone with jealous insanity and destroys her own world and that of Jason. Simply Electric.
Analyzed folder: /96kChe_Med_Cal_Mer/96k Cherubini – Medea – Callas (Mercury)
DR Peak RMS Filename
DR13 -0.47 dB -18.89 dB sideA.wav
DR13 -0.14 dB -18.44 dB sideB.wav
DR12 -1.47 dB -18.07 dB sideC.wav
DR13 -0.48 dB -19.13 dB sideD.wav
DR13 -1.85 dB -20.53 dB sideE.wav
DR12 -0.78 dB -18.33 dB sideF.wav
Number of files: 6
Official DR value: DR13
- RCM: Okki Nokki (L’art du son, Clearaudio’s Diamond Cleaner)
- TT: Clearaudio Champion Level II
- Cartridge: Sumiko Black Bird
- Phono stage: Pro-Ject Phono Box RS
- ADC/DAC: RME Fireface UC
- Pre Amp: Unison Research Unico Pre (Tube)
- Finals: Opera Consonance 9.9 Mono (Tube)
- Speakers: Dali Helikon 400
- Connections: MIT Terminator, Audioquest Emerald, Audioquest Quartz
- Software: iZotope RX Advanced v2.02, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
- Light de-Clicking with iZotopes, significant clicks manually removing, no De-Noising
If You hear some clicks and pops here and there, Who cares?
Id rather have a few light anomalies instead of destroying the music. Enjoy the music, not the ticks & pops.
- DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
- Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
- Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5
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