In the pantheon of operatic divas of the 20th century, the name of Maria Callas stands supreme even though it is now many years since the end of her spectacular, if surprisingly brief, career on the operatic stage. It is also somewhat surprising that so few of her performances were filmed. This makes all the more precious the material that we do have, including her contributi...(展开全部) In the pantheon of operatic divas of the 20th century, the name of Maria Callas stands supreme even though it is now many years since the end of her spectacular, if surprisingly brief, career on the operatic stage. It is also somewhat surprising that so few of her performances were filmed. This makes all the more precious the material that we do have, including her contributions to two gala concerts recorded at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1962 and 1964 and contained in the DVD part of this release. It was a matter of some excitement when Maria Callas turned up unexpectedly as a surprise participant at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 4 November 1962 in a live television transmission of a gala concert with a number of other performers. She was in excellent vocal condition, and her assured singing of the extended dramatic scene ‘Tu che le vanità’ from the last act of Verdi’s Don Carlo largely dispelled the growing rumours about her voice. She then changed the mood completely and took on the character of a flirtatious gypsy girl in the Habanera and the Séguedille from the first act of Bizet’s Carmen. In these two cameos, Callas was bewitching and gave a tantalizing glimpse of what she might have done in this role that she never played on stage, despite much urging from her fans and the opera houses of the world. Throughout 1963 Callas gave several more concerts and continued recording sporadically for EMI in Paris, but her relationship with Onassis was coming under strain and she welcomed the opportunity to return to the operatic stage in a new production of Puccini’s Tosca at Covent Garden early in 1964. This was to prove her last great triumph. The Norma in Paris later in 1964 was not without its vocal problems, and by July 1965 Callas had sung for the last time on stage with one final Tosca at Covent Garden. The director of the Tosca (and the subsequent Norma) was Franco Zeffirelli, with whom Callas had worked at La Scala, and singing opposite her in the role of Scarpia was a trusted friend and long-time colleague, the baritone Tito Gobbi. Back in 1953 they had made a studio recording of Tosca that remains to this day a landmark in recording history, yet this was to be their first complete Tosca together in the opera house. After the six performances of Tosca at the Royal Opera House in 1964, a Golden Hour TV gala was arranged at Covent Garden for the night of Sunday 9 February and it included the whole of the second act of Tosca. As the transmission was live, there was no opportunity for any editing, and in those days the camera work at such an event was still fairly basic, with the camera usually on the face of the person singing, even though this meant not seeing the reaction of Callas in certain dramatic moments. But in spite of these shortcomings, this visual record of Callas in Act 2 of Tosca is an invaluable document, preserving at least a part of that final stage triumph of the great diva, in a setting worthy of her art.