October 29, 2016

20,000 Vinyl LPs 71: Norma ~ Maria Callas debut @ the Met

Vinyl LP box front
photo by Styrous®

Sixty years ago today, October 29, 1956, Maria Callas made her Metropolitan Opera debut in the Vincenzo Bellini  opera, Norma. The performance opened the Met's seventy-second season. She was already world-famous at the time. Everyone knew who she was.    

I was 16 and I remember that the event was marred by an unflattering cover story in Time magazine, which rehashed all of the Callas clichés, including her temper, her supposed rivalry with Renata Tebaldi (see link below) and her difficult relationship with her mother. Nothing's perfect!  

October 29, 1956

She was asked to audition for Edward Johnson, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera. Johnson heard her and immediately offered her the leading roles in two productions of the 1946/7 season: Fidelio by Beethoven and Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. Maria, to Johnson's surprise, turned the roles down. She didn't want to sing Fidelio in English and she felt that she was too heavy to portray the young, fragile Butterfly. This story may just be a myth, though, since the Met maintains Callas' audition was not a success and that she was never offered a contract.  

1954: The first Norma recording
 photographer unknown

Her American operatic career never approached the numbers of performances she gave in Europe. She sang only 13 performances in Chicago, 21 at the Metropolitan. The last of these was a performance of Tosca in New York in March, 1965, when her partner was tenor Richard Tucker, with whom she had sung in Verona 18 years earlier.   

After only two more performances in that same year, Callas called a final halt to her operatic career. But in 1973-1974, she sang in an extended concert tour with her longtime colleague, tenor Giuseppe di Stefano. That tour brougt Callas to Washington in February, 1974, for her only appearance in Constitution Hall.   

Maria Callas was only 42 when she stopped singing in opera.   

Maria Callas with her teacher Elvira de Hidalgo in 1954

The press exulted in publicizing Callas's temperamental behavior, the rivalry with Renata Tebaldi and her love affair with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.  

photographer unknown 

Onassis amassed the world's largest privately owned shipping fleet and was one of the world's richest and most famous men. He was known for his business success, his great wealth and also his personal life, including his marriage to Athina Livanos, daughter of shipping tycoon Stavros G. Livanos, his affair with Maria Callas and his marriage in 1968 to Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow of the American president John F. Kennedy.   

Maria Callas, Commendatore OMRI (Greek: Μαρία Κάλλας) was born, Cecilia Sophia Anna Maria Kalogeropoulos, in New York City on December 2, 1923. She was a Greek-American soprano, and one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century. Critics praised her bel canto technique, wide-ranging voice and dramatic interpretations. Her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria to the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini, Rossini, Verdi and Puccini; and, in her early career, to the music dramas of Wagner. Her musical and dramatic talents led to her being hailed as La Divina

The soprano whose intensely dramatic portrayals on-stage and personal life off-stage made her the most exciting opera singer of her time, died of a heart attack on September 16, 1977, at her home in Paris, France. She was 53 years old.  

Vinyl LP label detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Bellini*, Callas*, Filippeschi*, Stignani*, Rossi-Lemeni* ‎– Norma

Label: Angel Recordings ‎– 3517 C
Format: 3 × Vinyl, LP, Album, Mono, Box Set
Country: US
Genre: Classical
Style: Opera, Romantic


A Act 1, Part 1 (Beginning) 29:11
B Act 1, Part 1 (Continued) 24:35
C Act 1, Part 1 (Conclusion) / Part 2 (Beginning) 25:18
D Act 1, Part 2 (Conclusion) / Act 2, Part 1 (Beginning) 27:30
E Act 2, Part 1 / Part 2 (Beginning) 26:00
F Act 2, Part 2 (Conclusion) 28:11



In Collaborazione Con L'Ente Autonomo Del Teatro Alla Scala

A = Record 1, Side 1
B = Record 2, Side 2
C = Record 3, Side 3
D = Record 3, Side 4
E = Record 2, Side 5
F = Record 1, Side 6

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Matrix / Runout (Label, Side 1): XBX 143-5N
  • Matrix / Runout (Label, Side 2): XBX 144-5N
  • Matrix / Runout (Label, Side 3): XBX 145-5N
  • Matrix / Runout (Label, Side 4): XBX 146-5N
  • Matrix / Runout (Label, Side 5): XBX 147-5N
  • Matrix / Runout (Label, Side 6): XBX 148-5N

Net links:    
Renata Tebaldi ~ Tosca              
Metropolitan Opera Archives ~ reviews
Bellini ~ Norma: Casta Diva on YouTube     
Limelight Magazine ~ Maria Callas: Her 10 Greatest Moments
The Guardian ~ Maria Callas: The truth is she was far from perfect
Cmuse ~ 60 years since Maria Callas debuted at the Met
Opera News ~ Sweet Inspiration     
Sopranos ~ Maria Callas            
On This Day Obituary            

Maria Callas
photo by Cecil Beaton - 1957

"To sing is an expression of your being,
a being which is becoming."
              -Maria Callas

Styrous® ~ Saturday, October 29, 2016    

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