Serafin: Donizetti - Lucia di Lammermoor (2 CD, APE)
Serafin: Donizetti - Lucia di Lammermoor (2 CD, APE)

Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra of London
Conductor: Tullio Serafin
Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Audio CD
SPARS Code: A-D
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: EMI Classics
Size: 505 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Libretto: Salvatore Cammarano

Lucia – Maria Callas
Edgardo – Ferruccio Tagliavini
Enrico – Piero Cappuccilli
Raimondo – Bernard Ladysz
Arturo – Leonard del Ferro
Alisa – Margreta Elkins
Normanno – Renzo Casellato

Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Tullio Serafin

Superb

The interesting thing to me about this recording is that it is always discussed in reference to Callas’ earlier versions, notably the ’53 studio recording and the famous ’55 live version from Berlin. And it is usually discussed in terms of vocal decline, casting deficiencies, etc.. I find this perplexing.

For my money, this is Callas’ best Lucia. The voice is actually more delicate, less steely, and possessing greater color than before. The ornaments, scales, etc. are done with more refinement and even more care for expressiveness than in her earlier recorded performances. I hear a warmer vocal timbre in the middle and low range. The phrasing makes the singing as natural and spontaneous sounding as speech. Sure, the topmost notes are not as steady as before, but nor are they embarrassments.

I had the first CD remastering of this in the ’80s and felt that part of the hardness and unsteadiness from the top C upwards reflected deficiencies in the actual recording. Sure enough, in this remastering, those problems are diminished notably. Callas’ voice, even in her earliest days on stage, was noted for its heavy vibrato and hard timbre at times. This is just her sound. You have to take it or leave it. I’ve always chosen to take it for more than 25 years now and feel that I am immeasurably better off as a result. In my view, only Callas and Sills among many fine Lucia’s on records create an impression of fragility, heartbreak, and madness. Even so, Sills, whom I admire in this role, does too much show off singing by comparison. Callas keeps it real, as the saying goes.

That said, I agree that the tenor is past his prime. But having Serafin on the podium and a young Cappuccilli compensate. Fine stereo sound, too.

This recording introduced me to poor, mad Lucia. I knew no other for a long time and would still cling to this one if I could only have one. As someone else noted, with Callas one listens and then one sees.

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