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Aria For … Wednesday – Casta Diva (Maria Callas)

In Aria For ..., Opera on January 9, 2013 at 10:53 pm

This choice of aria is a bit of a cheat. Sometimes I wake up and I know exactly what aria or piece of music I want to listen to at the start of my day.

It’s nearly always evoked by a memory. And nearly always something either sad or poignant. Perhaps it’s me.

It’s a cliché but my mother introduced me to Maria Callas at an early age. And by introduce I don’t mean that she sat me down, made me listen to her endlessly or told me that Callas was the greatest soprano that ever lived.

No.

Maria Callas wasn’t even playing in the background as I grew up. My mother only ever went to the opera once. And saw Callas. Then life took over and she has never been to the opera since. Despite even my best efforts.

It was just the way my mother talked about Callas that had me intrigued. But it was still some time before I purchased a Callas recording.

It’s also a cliché that the aria I most associate with her is Callas singing Casta Diva.

But it is. It’s not the first aria I remember hearing Callas sing. That was Ritorna Vincitor.

It’s simply because my mother remembers seeing Callas sing Casta Diva. And when she talks about it she doesn’t talk about technique, or diction, or any of the things that I – and others – write and talk about. She uses a single word.

‘Passion’.

Now some would argue that Callas didn’t have the most beautiful voice. It isn’t always pretty and sometimes she doesn’t quite manage what’s written on the stave, but you can’t deny the passion of her singing. And I can’t help by being drawn into her performance completely.

There is a magnetism to her voice that is enthralling. Even when the recording isn’t the best quality her singing cuts through you.

I can’t think of many – if any – singers today that have that effect.

So today – for a very specific reason – I searched out Casta Diva on my iPod and let Maria Callas cut through me. As I sat there on the bus listening to it a whole gamut of emotions and memories – good and bad – raced through my mind.

But by the end, as the aria drew to a close, I knew everything was going to be fine.

That’s the power of music. Memory. And Callas.

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