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Toujours Paris 1958 [Import]

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Format: Classical, NTSC, Import
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Warner Classics
  • Release Date: July 3 2001
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B00005LIN2
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Product Description

Product Description

Maria Callas is the quintessential diva who changed the face of the opera in the 20th century. The repertoire in this performance shows Callas at her best, both in recital and as an operatic actress. Verdi, Rossini, and Bellini were three composers at the heart of Maria Callas's career. Her personal life was of tragic operatic dimensions and perhaps no role comes closer to the essence of Callas than Floria Tosca. The second half to the program comprises the complete Act 2 of this opera, with a brilliant performance by Tito Gobbi in the role of Scarpia. A genuine collector's item, this live recording documents Callas's Paris debut at the peak of her career. Also included is documentary footage about the performance and the opera house. 91 minutes.


The career of Maria Callas was just a bit too early and too brief to receive full and satisfying video documentation like that now being accorded to such singers as Renée Fleming and Luciano Pavarotti. This black-and-white televised recital (Callas's Paris debut) took place at the Paris Opera on December 19, 1958 when television was still in its infancy. We might wish that it had happened earlier, when her voice was in better condition, or later, when video recording technology was more advanced--so that, for example, we would not have to take the narrator's word that Callas is wearing a red dress. But this is probably the best available Callas video recording, and her fans will welcome it warmly. Visual elements were as important as the vocal dimensions in her art.

The material, carefully chosen to show Callas at her best and most versatile, includes "Casta Diva" from Bellini's Norma (a Callas specialty), the haunting "Miserere" scene from Verdi's Il trovatore, and the mischievous "Una voce poco fa" from Rossini's Barber of Seville, a fine series of stylistic contrasts in which the essential point is not pure tonal beauty but characterization and subtle expressive nuances. Others have made this music sound prettier; nobody has presented it with more impact.

But the climax of this program is its second half, a staged performance of Act II of Puccini's Tosca. This is a study in police brutality, sexual harassment, and sheer violence, psychological and physical, that has some of opera's most extreme moments--including the great aria "Vissi d'arte," the murder of the villain Scarpia, and the contemptuous dismissal flung at his corpse--"and all Rome trembled before him!" In this segment, Callas goes mano a mano with Tito Gobbi, her only equal as a singing actor during her career. They savor this material in a virtuoso performance. --Joe McLellan

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Of all the available visual samples available of Maria Callas this is the best and most loyal. In this peformance we are treated to some of Callas' most famous arias with dramatic changes in character and musical style. We begin with the bel canto treat of selections from Norma- Callas' famous "Casta Diva". Unfortunately the chorus who sings with her is horrible and off time which detracts from an otherwise perfect experience. No one was able to match the sheer expressiveness and fluid phrasing of Callas in this arena. Next selections from Il Trovatore are dramatic and again showcase the amazing phrasing which no other artist has been able to match. Leonora is shown to us as a living breathing person rather than just some pretty arias and a chance to showcase vocal beauty. Callas may not deliver the full throated beauty of other singers in this role, but you will never find a more fully developed and well phrased character in a role which was meant to be acted- not showcased for vocal fireworks. Then, she switches yet again into the comic light coluratura of Rosina's aria from the Barber of Seville. This was an aria she often performed in recital- yet rarely was she ever in such good voice as in this presentation. One overly eager fan began to shout brava in the middle of her aria while others shushed him. By far the highlight though is the staged preformance of act 2 of Tosca with Tito Gobbi. If you have ever heard Callas' Tosca then I need not comment of the genius she brought to this role. The greatest highlight of which is her Vissi D'arte which I dare you to sit dry eyed through. Her magnificent voice and unmatched vocal expression milk that aria for all it's worth. It is a shame that we weren't able to see Callas ealier when her voice was fuller and in richer bloom- but here we have her in fine voice and her usual dramatic perfection which she only achieved later in her career- this DVD is well worth it- discover La Divina today!
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By T on March 22 2004
All the Great Personalities of Art were there that night that occured a short while after the Roma Incident.
That night Callas had chosen as she used to those days a suicidal repertoire. She started with a silvery Casta Diva plus the two Cabalettas, she continued with Leonora's great Scene from Trovatore with a D'amor sull ali rosee that was soaking tears and drama and a Miserere that will make you shiver. There is a moment in that aria where Callas stands back while the Chorus of the prisoners sings and her body turned away from the audience takes the shape of an ancient statue. The lights create some rather bizarre shades around her and the entire sight has an element of Divinity that is totally unexplainable.
After the heaviest dramatic role the lightest coloratura of the famous reading of Una Voce poco fa where Callas transforms into a simple girl palying with her voice...
As for the second Part this is truly Operatic History.
Jose van Dam who was always against of filming any kind of opera, had said that filming in opera is only acceptable for such Historical Performances as Callas' Tosca.
Tosca was the role that no matter what, Callas will never be surpassed as for earlier and later soprani always suffered either by lack of lyricism, or by a ridicilous over-exageration in the dramatic scenes that used to bring laughter in the most dramatic moments (famous readings of Tosca's "finire cosi" or of Tosca's screams in the final act have managed to bring tears out of laughter thus completely destroying very famous performances).That night Callas was not of course as she was in her Classic 1953 De Sabata Tosca but she still managed her primary goal as Tosca. She herself had confessed that a Tosca is a failure if the singer does not manage to make the audience shiver at the last Act.
To be watching Callas and Gobbi together onstage was not just History of Opera... we should be thankful something like this actually was filmed...
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As this is a recital, we don't have the other parts/settings etc except for Tosca. The recorded sound is not as good as one would expect, nor is the photography: they are slightly below the best standard of the time.
Yet we have a lot of music and drama. All the credits go to Callas. People say the violin is the devil's instrument. I say this is only one side of the coin and Callas, Caruso etc will show you the other side. The violin may be a difficult enough instument to learn but with a singer, we have to be borned with the voice, and then there is so much to learn. After all that, the singing career is piteously short for once her interpretation is really interesting, she will soon pass her prime...
But it's rewarding, as a lot of pianists would refer to Callas for the art of phrasing and one is none but Alfred Brendel. Well, her Norma and also her Verdi are so impressive that one would say that is the ultimate limit of music or indeed of any art form. Needless to say, her acting is totally convincing too.
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I first came across this film when it was released in one of those "laser discs" developed by Pioneer a couple of decades ago, nowadays gone the way of the Betamax, superseded by newer, although not always better, technologies. This EMI release contains most of that laser disc's contents, for some reason leaving out the initial segment (some dozen minutes I estimate), one that included introductory shots that showed the cars going round the Place de l'Opéra under a heavy rain to disembark their illustrious passengers, then proceeding inside to pan across the vast hall before the recital starts, spotting for us a few of the "toût Paris" that had attended the gala evening when Maria Callas would first sing before them, people like Juliette Greco, Brigitte Bardot, Charlie Chaplin and others, then went on to show the entrance of then French President René Coty, allowing us to listen to the National Anthem and then to the overture of Verdi's La Forza del Destino. This dvd release catches up when the latter has ended and Callas makes her grand entrance. Substituted for the segment I've described EMI have decided to give us some sort of a colour "guided visit" of the theatre, which resumes variously within the programme as we switch from one composer to another. A real loss, as the original film placed us within a marvellous context, allowing us to feel the atmosphere of the evening, as close as one can more than four decades away, and allowing ous to savour the diva's entrance practically as much as the Paris audience on 19/12/58 did. And whatever information one gets on the Palais Garnier in the new segment one can also get (and more) from the green Michelin guide.
Musically, the film is a mixed bag.
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