"MARIA CALLAS -- The Unknown Recordings, Vol. II"
DIVINA DVN 4  (mono) (F) (ADD) TT:  69:39


DIVINA is a company located in Argentina devoted to the artistry of Maria Callas.  Already they have issued on CD a Tosca from London (July 5, 1965) and  Norma from Trieste (November 19, 1953), as well as Volume I of "The Unknown Recordings."  Their future plans include release of all Callas live recordings available -- for a complete list of what the future holds, check their website (www.divinarecords.com).  Their goals are admirable and doubtless the legion of Callas fans will wish to investigate many of these.  DIVINA  promises to "present the audio of each performance unaltered from the source to preserve the historical value....never cut high frequencies to remove noise...only clicks, ticks and pops have been removed...."  Another plus is that these CDs are enhanced for video, providing about 4 1/2 min. of video tracks, 40 high-quality photographs, scans of newspaper and magazine reviews and original programs, plus  performance annals and discographies, articles relating to Callas recordings and about 27 minutes from 8 interviews in French, German, Dutch, Greek and English, all of which are translated on the CD-Rom.

The CD begins with two arias from Bizet's Carmen presented in Madison Square Garden May 19, 1962, a birthday concert for John F. Kennedy before an audience that obviously didn't seem to have opera on its mind, although eventually they quiet down.  Then follow arias of Rossini, Bellini, Verdi and Puccini (three appearing for the first time on CD) recorded in Royal Festival Hall May 31, 1963, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Georges PrÍtre, an occasion that found Callas in fine vocal condition; .  As an indication of uncommon interest in all sounds made by the diva, you will also find a brief excepts from Norma recorded in 1964, Schumann's Dichterliebe recorded in her Paris flat, and a snippet from La forza del destino, recorded in 1977. Of great amusement is a 1:25 excerpt from an interview in her Paris flat with Lord Harewood in which her poodle comes into the room and we hear the two of them (the poodle and Callas) en concertante.  The lady obviously did have a sense of humor.

These are full-priced CDs, which will not matter to devotees of the legendary soprano.  I wish some company would issue a similar series for Ljuba Welitsch!

R.E.B. (Aug.2001)