How does the newspaper review help us to understand the singing qualities of an operatic diva such as Callas? Maria Callas was probably the most famous opera star of the mid-twentieth century and from reading the review I get the impression that the writer was a fan of Maria Callas. The writing is very complimentary not only to her vocal abilities but also to her stage presence. But the writer also picks up very quickly on the weaknesses of her voice as it has a “tendency to wobble slightly in its highest notes disturbed me”.
The reviewer also mentions her reputation, and that she has reviewed her before in another performance “Norma”. The reviewer describes her acting skills as “extraordinarily perceptive and gripping even by the standards of the legitimate stage”, this conveys just the “amazing skill” that Maria Callas has and the way she brings this to the stage in her performance. She adds “intensity to her singing” which sets her apart from other Operatic singers and as the reviewer mentions “pure, innocent voices are a dime a dozen” which singles Maria Callas out as one of the best.
This review represents Maria Callas as a great Operatic singer, with “outstanding gifts”, “theatrical personality” and “extraordinary brilliance”. Unable to control her high notes, but with a unusual tone to her voice her low or chest register was extremely dark and almost baritonal in power, and she used this part of her voice for dramatic effect, often going into this register much higher on the scale than most sopranos. Her voice was penetrating. The volume as such was average: neither small nor powerful.
In soft passages, Callas seemed to use another voice altogether, because it acquired a great sweetness. The value of this review for music historians today is significant as it really does tell us a lot about her performance, her voice, her acting skills and how she captured an audience to depict the story. From listening to the recording I quickly understand the review when they mention the power of her voice along with the “reedy tone” and the “wobble” (Track 5 0:26) when she hits the high notes.
I understand why she has the reputation for being brilliant but also for having flaws in her voice that make her recognizable when she sings (Track 5 2:33). Through the music she expresses the emotion of the story very well and I can hear the passion and emotion in her voice (Track 5 1:42). She pronounces every syllable with this passion and this also conveys the drama and enhances her performance further (Track 5 1:57). During the recording I can really hear the way the tenor is declaring his love for “Violetta”, and as Maria Callas sings the aria “Ah!
Fors’e lui” you feel the enormity of performance and the emotion she is expressing to the audience and listener. The dynamics of the music add to the dramatic elements of the song along with the forte of the music and Maria Callas’s voice and the tenor. She exercises vocal control and as the review remarks she has a “fiery conveyance for female passion”, this impressive skill is the reason why she has the reputation she has for being a diva.
Overall I think the reviewer communicates her performance fittingly and completes the review by describing the performance as an “electrifying fusions of music, theatre, and personality that operagoers are only occasionally privileged to witness, and are seldom able to forget”; this once again reinforces the evidence that Maria Callas was not only a diva, and one of the best operatic singers of the mid-twentieth century but also as someone who will live on through her music and the reputation she built while she was alive.