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Subject: Re: Is the Callas Tosca recording the "best" opera recording ever made?
From: "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:G. Paul Padillo
Date:Wed, 3 Jan 2018 14:20:18 -0500

text/plain (47 lines)

It’s been interesting reading the various posts in this thread.  I, however, am one of those 
who lacks the gene to feel it necessary to deem anything “the greatest” or “best ever” 
feeling it a futile category spurred by with subjectivity, regardless of the feats of 
engineering, casting or other musical matters. 

The EMI “Tosca” with Callas, et al, at the center of all of this, happens to be one of my very 
favorite recordings and has been since boyhood, but THE greatest of all time?  Nope.  
Great?  Oh, yes.  Can't we just be satisfied by that alone?

Some of the other recordings mentioned are also among my favorites.

Other favorite recordings of operas are not, perhaps, as popular as those others would 
choose.  While I bow to no one in my love of all things Nilsson, and her "Salome" is 
something out-of-this world, my favorite studio Salome is not hers but rather Behrens, van 
Dam, Balsta under von Karajan.  Everything comes together, and Behrens, still near the 
beginning of her career, shows why she was a dream for so many conductors; the voice of 
such silvery beauty, the vibrato perfectly under control with an evenness, clear, precise high 
notes attacked and landed on effortlessly (or so they sound) and a girlishness to the voice 
that makes the role as appealing as it can be. I’d never want to be without my other Salome 
recordings, but this is the one I come to with the most frequency whenever I need a fix of 
Strauss’ ultimate bad girl.  

There is, for me, also the matter of performance over sonics.  The 1941 “Pelleas et 
Melisande” under Roger Désormière may not be a marvel of engineering, but the youthful 
performances of Jacques Jansen and Irene Joachim, have, to my ear, never quite been 
duplicated to the same degree of almost impetuous spontaneity, even though I have loved 
and raved over many other performers in these roles.  

The Mercury “Medea” of Cherubini with Callas, Mirto Picchi under Serafin is one of the most 
exciting performances of any opera I know, the duet concluding Act 1 burning like the 
proverbial “house on fire.”  I’d call it one of the best recordings of all time, but is it really?  
I’m happy just to call it a favorite and leave it at that.


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