Maria Callas sings two recitals in Paris
In 1965 and 1958
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Moving and sublime, Callas was the "voice of the century." We see her filmed during two recitals in Paris.
In her lifetime Maria Callas was already a legend, and since her passing on September 16, 1977, she has lived on in the memory of the public at large far beyond the circle of opera fanatics. Callas was genuine and authentic on stage, like few others before her: "Compared to her, most singers were pleasant to listen to, but as if they were disconnected from reality," recalls Renata Scotto. "Callas spoke to us in the present."
Born in New York in 1923, Callas faced a litany of struggles throughout her life—with a mother who had wanted a boy; with her physical appearance (which she completely transformed, perhaps to the detriment of her health); in her tumultuous relationship with Aristotle Onassis; and finally with her voice, which abandoned her so early…
1965: when she sings Norma by Bellini at the Opéra de Paris, Callas is but the shadow of herself. She quits at the fifth performance before the second scene of the second act. Yet, a few days before, on May 2nd at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Callas, accompanied by the Orchestra of the ORTF and Georges Prêtre, borders on the sublime. With the intelligence of each word and of each note she offers three unforgettable arias: "Adieu notre petite table..." (Manon by Massenet), "Ah, non credea mirarti..." (La Somnambula by Bellini), "Oh, mio babbino caro..." (Gianni Schicchi by Puccini). She is beautiful and moving.
She was at the peak of her powers when she made her debut in France on December 19th, 1958 at the Paris Opera during a gala event in the presence of President René Coty. Happily, camera crews were there to bear witness to the supreme artistry of Callas. With two arias from Norma by Bellini, including "Casta Diva," as well as selections from Verdi's Il Trovatore and Rossini's The Barber of Seville by Rossini, the crowd throws itself at her feet. Present that evening was Aristotle Onassis, who came to congratulate her in her dressing room. But that's another story…
The archival material featured in this programme come from Les grands interprètes (INA archive by Bernard Gavoty, Gérald Herzog, 1965) and La grande nuit de l'opéra (INA archive by Roger Benamou, 1958).