Maria Callas

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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...
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