This is an exciting performance. Gabriele Lavia’s steampunk production is stylish and plays up the violence and tension that underpin the opera. Nicola Luisotti’s conducting does likewise, as he is sharp and authoritative but also allows the music to breath naturally. The cast is excellent.(Opera Now)
From early in her career, it was striking how Callas juxtaposed coloratura heroines, traditionally sung in previous decades by twittering sopranos such as Lily Pons, with heftier roles that Pons and her ilk would not have touched in a million years. The Rome recital (with Rome's Orchestra della RAI and conductor Oliviero de Fabritiis) is a fine example of this: Verdi's Lady Macbeth and Abigaille are followed by Donizetti's Lucia and Delibes' Lakmé, and it doesn't seem ridiculous or misguided at all. Granted, Delibes' Indian priestess does not give Callas much to sink her teeth into, dramatically speaking, but the coloratura is impressive. (Truth to tell, though, other singers jumped those hurdles better than she did.) Even with the conductor's excessively leisurely tempos, Callas creates a malevolent Lady Macbeth. She would be even better in this role later on – see below. The San Remo material (Orchestra della RIA conducted by Alfredo Simonetto) offers similar juxtapositions: Mozart's Konstanze ("Martern aller Arten" is sung in Italian as "Tutte le torture") and Meyerbeer's Dinorah are put in their places by Rossini's fearsome Armida! In between, Charpentier's dreamy Louise ("Depuis le jour") displays the soprano's skills as a lyric soprano as well. All of this is most impressive. The voice is in excellent condition throughout this CD, and the sound has held up very well over the decades.