|Donizetti - Lucia Di Lammermoor|
Lucia was another one of Callas's signature roles; in fact, one might argue that she made people listen to it in a manner they had neglected since its inception. Long the territory of canary-like high sopranos with no interest in drama (e.g., Lily Pons), Callas brought the role into the same dramatic focus it had been created for. At its premiere in 1835, members of the audience wept audibly at Lucia's lunacy. With her darker tone and psychological probing, Callas made us hear what was in the poor girl's soul--she was an innocent, tricked, abandoned, and driven mad.
This live performance, in so-so sound (but absolutely worth it), is staggering in its musical and dramatic potency; something between Callas and Karajan was in the air that made them think, breathe, and create music as one. Callas ducks the first big E-flat in the Mad Scene for dramatic effect; the second one is all the more special for making us wait for it. And elsewhere Callas's "rightness" within the role is never in doubt. Costar Giuseppe di Stefano, too, is at his best, singing with ardor and gorgeous streams of sound, and the ensemble work is so spectacular that the audience demands--and gets--an encore of the 2nd Act sextet. Any collection of great opera recordings without this set is incomplete.