La Divina

I don’t believe in ghosts, because the stuff of the real world is far more more mysterious and haunting.

Think of sound recordings: they’re not just commodities to sell and deliver a listening experience to anyone who holds them, they are frozen pieces of the past. And because, contrary to the popular notion that we are visual animals, our most important sense is hearing. It’s the noise in the distance we cannot see that reaches immediately to a spot deep inside the brain.

We can read about the past in books, look at it in pictures, but nothing is so powerful as hearing the past. And in a year that has already seen an inundation of classical music CD box sets, an extraordinary one is bearing release: Callas Remasterd: The Complete Studio Recordings.

There’s no shortage of Maria Callas recordings, and this is not the first box set. What sets this apart is the 24-bit/96kHz, high definition remastering of the original tapes, done at Abbey Road Studios. Some samples I’ve heard are breathtaking, with an open high end that adds space to the sound field and life to her voice. The set comes with a 136 page hard-bound book and the librettos are on a CD-ROM.

What is important about this set is Callas. Unwrap the pop-culture obsessiveness with her life and personality, and you find one of the great musical artists of the recording era.  She had the exceedingly rare ability to project a dramatic personality in the simplest and most direct way through singing, and singing in a manner that turns the words into artifice. It is that human depth that made her so much more than La Divina—she has never been surpassed as a communicative artist.

You can hear it all in this set. With thirty-nine separate recordings, it has at least one version of almost every one of her most famous dramatic roles, save for Anna Bolena. There are numerous recital recordings as well.

(All the individual recordings in the set will be released separately, on September 23, October 28 and November 11)


Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.