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Callas on CD: Robert E. Seletsky Choices
(Most of these choices, made in 2005, are no longer relevant. The author will prepare a new list.)

LIVE PERFORMANCES: 

Complete Operas

Bellini
Norma--Buenos Aires ’49 (extant excerpts): Divina DVN-12
Norma--Mexico ’50:  Melodram 26018
Norma--Covent Garden ’52: Legato 130-2 (best sound and pitch)
Norma--Trieste ’53: Divina DVN-3
Norma--Rome RAI 6/55: In 1994, Cetra issued a version from a master accidentally missing 30 seconds in Act 1, pt 2.  Every version since then uses this defective master. Look for versions predating that: Fonit Cetra CDC-4 and its clones, like Virtuoso 2699062.
Norma--Scala 12/55: Divina DVN-17
Norma “Casta diva”--Rome 31 xii 1957: in Divina DVN-1
Norma Act 1--Rome 1/58: Divina DVN-7
Norma, extant excerpts--Paris 1965: Divina DVN-10, 15 (only version with all extant material, and in the best possible sound).
Pirata--NY 1/59: Melodram 26013 (both EMIs are copied from Verona, and are a semi-tone flat for the first 20 minutes)
Puritani--Mex ’52: Melodram 26027
Sonnambula--Scala ’55: EMI 67906 pretty good, apparently copied from Myto 890.06
Sonnambula--Cologne 4 vii ’57: Verona 2704/5--EMI apparently copied this version; best is BJR LP 152
Sonnambula--Cologne 6 vii ’57: Divina DVN-8 (in preparation)
Sonnambula--Edinburgh 21 viii ’5:7 Divina DVN-9
Sonnambula--Edinburgh 26 viii ’57: Divina DVN-6; (also, possibly Mike Richter’s free CD-ROM from his web site; it has no track divisions).

Cherubini
Medea--Florence ’53: Golden Melodram 20037
Medea--Scala 12/53: Verona 27088/9 (EMI used this one and dulled it); Melodram is supposed to be okay also; avoid Fonit Cetra’s “SoundRebirth” version; best still BJR LP 129
Medea--Dallas 11/58: Gala 100.521 (or very expensive CDR copied from Irwin Elkins Omega Opera Archive where the original tape resides).
Medea--Covent Garden ’59: Melodram 26005
Medea--Scala 12/61: No CDs or LPs; all have decent sound, but all become over a semitone flat by Callas' entrance. Most current available version: Opera d'Oro 1251


Donizetti
Anna Bolena--Scala 4/57: GOP 768, Opera d’Oro 1285 (identical pressing), Verona 27090/1; best is still BJR LP109
Lucia--Mex ’52: Opera d’Oro 1225 (as good as any)
Lucia Mad Scenes in other Mex ’52 performances: Memories 4581 (only three survive, not four as claimed: the “fourth” is a different mastering of one of the others)
Lucia--Scala ’54: Standing Room Only SRO 831-2
Lucia--Berlin 9/55: Melodram 26004 (No EMI version!) ; best is still BJR LP 133
Lucia--Naples ’56: Myto 90319
Lucia--NY MET ’56: Mel 26034
Lucia--Rome ’57: Arkadia CDMP 422.2
Poliuto--Scala 12/60: EMI 65448 or Verona 28003/4; best BJR LP 106


Giordano
Andrea Chenier--Scala ’55: Opera d’Oro 1330

Gluck
Alceste--Scala ’54: Golden Melodram 20019
Ifigenia in Tauride--Scala 6/57: Divina DVN-11


Puccini
Tosca--Mex ’50 & Rio ‘51 (extant portions): Melodram 36032
Tosca--Mex ’52: Opera d’Oro 1248
Tosca Act II excerpt--Ed Sullivan 11/56: Gala 100.515, in ‘Complete RAI Recitals’
Tosca--Covent Garden 1/64: Opera d’Oro 1142
Tosca--Covent Garden 2/64: EMI video (w/Don CarloCarmen arias 9/62)
Tosca--NY MET ’65: Living Stage 1083
Tosca--Covent Garden 7/65: Divina DVN-2 (however, pitch goes flat in the original tape)


Rossini
Armida--Florence ’52: Divina DVN-16 (only complete version)
Turco in Italia--“Non si da` follia maggiore”: in Tima Club CLAMA CD48
Barbiere--Scala ’56: Opera d’Oro 1264 (same as, but much cheaper than, Golden Melodram.


Spontini
Vestale--Scala ’54: Opera d’Oro 1227

Verdi
Aida--Mex 5/50: Melodram 26009
Aida excerpts--Mex 6/50: IDIS 6404
Aida excerpts--Rome 10/50: in Melodram 26019 (appendix to awful pressing of Traviata Mex ’51)
Aida--Mex ’51: EMI 62678; nothing compares to BJR LP 151
Aida--Covent Garden 6/53: Testament SBT2 1355
Ballo--Scala ’57: Golden Melodram 2.0009 (Not EMI or Opera d’Oro!); best BJR LP 127
Macbeth--Scala ’52: GOP 750 or long out-of-print Legendary 1003-2 (Not EMI or Arkadia!); best still BJR LP 117 (second version w/beige cover has real finale to Act I)
Nabucco--Naples ’49: Melodram 26029 (there may be others, but be wary of them)
Rigoletto--Mex ’52: Opera d’Oro 1253 (best by far is still BJR LP 149 [not earlier 101])
Traviata--Mex ’51: All CDs are in horrible sound and very low pitch; good excerpts in BJR LP 130
Traviata--Mex ’52: Opera d’Oro 1226, Rodolphe 32431-2: better but long out-of print; nothing can compare to BJR LP  130
Traviata--Scala ’55: Hunt 501, Foyer 2CF 2001 (Hunt is more even); avoid EMI!
Traviata--Scala 1/56: no recommended version; the available Myto 89003 is a pastiche from different performances, as the real performance only survives in fragments.

Traviata
--Lisbon ’58: EMI 7 49187 (Avoid 1997 EMI; Pearl/Richter less bad)
Traviata--Covent Garden ’58: Melodram 26007
Trovatore--Mex 20 vi ’50: Melodram 26017 (clone Opera d’Oro 1229)
Trovatore extant excerpts--Mex 27 vi ’50: in Eklipse CD14
Trovatore--Naples ’51: Melodram 26001; Pantheon 6037-7--but CEDARized)
Trovatore--Scala 2/53: No CDs acceptable; only passable LP is Robin Hood [same people as BJR] RHR-500
Vespri Siciliani--Florence ’51: IMC [Melodram] 303016

Wagner
Parsifal--Rome RAI ’50: Virtuoso 2699232 (Verona defective masters, Cetra, Hommage, Warner incomplete like their RAI ’55 Norma after 1994)
Parsifal Act 2 (Callas’ act): Gala 320 (great sound)


Live Recitals and interviews

RAI recital ’51 (complete extant bits): in Divina DVN-1
RAI recitals ’52-6: Gala 100.515; better on BJR LP 143
Athens recital ’57 (& BohemeMefistofele arias 3 x ‘59): Gala 316
Dallas Rehearsal: 11/57 Gala 323
Los Angeles recital ’58: VAI 1182
Paris Gala 12/58: audio Gala 324; video EMI or private off-air video
Hamburg recital 5/59: Gala 325 (video EMI w/Hamburg ‘62)
Stuttgart recital 5/59: Palladio 4188
Amsterdam recital 7/59: in EMI 72030 “Live in Concert” issued 1997
London recital 5/61--arias from Le Cid and Mefistofele; Malcolm Sargent, piano: in Gala 322
London recital 2/62: complete on Melodram 36513; Movieplay 100344
Hamburg ’62 recital: audio in Gala 322; video EMI w/Hamburg 5/59)
Madison Sq. Garden NY Carmen arias: in Divina DVN-4
Stuttgart recital 5/63: in Eklipse P-13
Berlin recital 8/63: in Eklipse P-13
London recital 5/63: in Divina DVN-4
Paris recital ’63 (& BBC 6/58, 9/59): Gala 321
Ardoin interview ’68: in Eklipse CD-33
Hamburg recital ’74: w/di Stefano--Faust duet in Eklipse CD-33
Boston recital ’74: Ombra 7001
Carnegie Hall NY recital ’74--Manon aria: Ornamenti FE-1009
Lord Harewood Conversations ’68 + Massenet, Bellini, Puccini arias ’65 French TV & interview in French: EMI DVD Classic Archive 27
Additional interviews, fragments, etc. all periods: Divina DVN-1 & 4
 


STUDIO RECORDINGS (EMI unless noted):

Complete Operas


Bellini
Norma ’54: Callas Edition 5 56271 EU pressing
Norma ’60: Callas Edition 5 66428

Puritani:
 7 47308 W. German pressing is clearest and most incisive
Sonnambula: No CD right, but Callas Edition 5 56278 EU pressing best option


Bizet
Carmen: 7 47308--3-disc version UK pressing, others okay (but not US 1993)

Cherubini
Medea (Ricordi): two possibilities, both out of print:
[a] Callas Edition 5 66435 only EU pressing  (bright but crisp)
[b] 7 63625--earlier mastering, W. German pressing, closer to LP sound but has some distortion


Donizetti
Lucia ’53: 7 69980 W. German pressing
Lucia ’59: 7 47440 Japanese pressing


Mascagni/Leoncavallo
Cav/Pag: No CD comes close but 7 47981 US pressing (1993) if you must

Ponchielli
Gioconda ’52: Fonit Cetra CDC-9 from 1986 (sadly long out-of-print), Naxos 8.110302-4 is a distant second; avoid 1990s Cetra, Hommage, Warner-Fonit, etc. which have added reverb.
Gioconda ’59:
 7 49518 W. German pressing best; other pressings not bad

Puccini
Boheme: 7 47475 US pressing (1993) surprisingly best; W. German too muddy
Butterfly: 7 47959 US pressing (1993) again noticeably the best
Manon Lescaut: 7 47393 W. German pressing (avoid 1993 US pressing)
Tosca ’53: Callas Edition 5 56304 EU pressing revised 1999 only or 7 47175 (47174 US pressing)
Tosca ’64: Callas Edition 5 66444 either EU or US pressing, oddly
Turandot: 7 47971 W. German pressing best focused; US 1993 muffled


Rossini
Barbiere: 7 47634 W. German (fuller) or US 1993 pressing (more transparent)
Turco in Italia: 7 49344 German EMI Classics pressing 1993 (older EMI/.Angel W. German pressing, with same catalogue number, muddy)
Verdi
Aida: 7 49030 W. German pressing
Ballo: Callas Edition 56320 EU pressing only
Forza: 7 47581 W. German or US pressing
Rigoletto: 7 47469 W. German pressing fuller, UK or US more transparent
Traviata ’53: Naxos 8.110300-01 or Fonit Cetra CDC 2 (long out-of-print); avoid all others stemming from 1990s Cetra with added reverb: Hommage, Warner-Fonit , etc.
Trovatore: CD 5 56333 US pressing, bizarrely, the best



Studio Recitals: Cetra


1949 Cetra Arias: best is Warner-Fonit CD 8573 80575-2: “Maria Callas: Il primo disco”--stunning new transfers of these things. “O rendetemi...Qui la voce” is a different take than one usually hears but that familiar one is covered in the appendix of the Naxos/Marston Gioconda or Warner Fonit 8573 82241-2.  Also, a discarded take of “Casta diva,” first verse, from 8 Nov 1949 is in IDIS 6404.
 


Studio Recital Discs: EMI


Avoid the Callas Edition but note the original LP order presented in them.  Some notes about Callas Edition versions (from my articles).  Aside from thin sound, the problems are:
(a) ‘Lyric/Coloratura’ has a new, inappropriate edit: after Callas sings her last note, she ends the note with a glottal stop and then we hear four little clicks--Callas perhaps clicking her tongue in disapproval at this; these are removed from the Callas Edition version.  The old, untampered version is called simply ‘Opera Arias’ and contains ‘Lyric/Coloratura’ and the material she approved for release on ‘At La Scala’: EMI 7 47282-2.
(b) Four of the other Callas Edition recital discs are a quarter--tone high in pitch!: ‘In Paris 1’ and ‘2’; ‘Mozart, Beethoven, Weber’; and ‘Rossini & Donizetti’.


Seek the 1980s-mid 90s pressings; sadly the material has been thrown around several CDs: ‘Opera Arias’ EMI 7 47282-2 contains ‘Lyric/Coloratura’ and the some of unapproved 1955 sessions.  The Puccini recital is now ‘Puccini/Bellini Arias,’ EMI 7 47966-2, and has the rest of the 1955 sessions.  The 1987 ‘Callas à Paris’ 7 49059-2 has ‘Paris 1’ and some of ‘Paris 2’; another ‘Opera Arias’ 7 49005-2 has everything else, except the Beethoven ‘”Ah Perfido” which appears in two places: ‘Maria Callas Rarities’ (1992) 7 54437-2 and at the end of the Ricordi Medea (1990) 7 63625-2.  Nevertheless, one should listen to the 1980s-early 1990s discs.  As they are chronologically mixed up, it is a good idea to re--assemble them in a computer according to the order of the Callas Edition, and create new CDs with their good sound that reflect Callas’ original intentions for disc content.  Or find the 15-disc Japanese EMI set from 1996; it already reflects original LP content and order and is well remastered.

© 2005 by Robert E. Seletsky
 
 
 
 
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