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Maria Callas at Covent Garden (1964)

Few of Maria Callas's performances were filmed, so these two gala concerts recorded at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1962 and 1964 are special. On 4 November 1962, it was before ... See full summary »


Franco Zeffirelli

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Cast overview:
Maria Callas ... Soprano / Tosca
Renato Cioni Renato Cioni ... Cavaradossi
Tito Gobbi Tito Gobbi ... Scarpia
Robert Bowman Robert Bowman ... Spoletta
Dennis Wicks Dennis Wicks ... Sciarrone


Few of Maria Callas's performances were filmed, so these two gala concerts recorded at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1962 and 1964 are special. On 4 November 1962, it was before an excited audience that she appeared unexpectedly in a live television transmission of a concert with several other performers. She was in excellent vocal condition, which reassured her fans, who had heard rumors that she was vanishing from the stage to be with Aristotle Onassis or because her voice was failing. Callas sings "Tu che le vanita" from Verdi's Don Carlo and the flirtatious gypsy girl's role in the Habanera and the Seguedille from Bizet's Carmen. In 1963 Callas occasionally recorded for EMI in Paris, but her last triumph was her appearance in Puccini's Tosca at Covent Garden in 1964. The director was Franco Zeffirelli and singing in the role of Scarpia was baritone Tito Gobbi. Written by Fiona Kelleghan <fkelleghan@aol.com>

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Documentary | Music





Also Known As:

Maria Callas at Covent Garden, 1962 and 1964 See more »

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Referenced in Tosca (2011) See more »


Carmen: Prélude
Music by Georges Bizet
Performed by Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Conducted by Georges Prêtre
See more »

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User Reviews

4 July 2011 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

This Covent Garden performance is legendary. The music is just sublime from start to finish, and Franco Zeffirelli's costumes and sets are wonderful. The picture quality is somewhat primitive but still clear enough, while the sound while rather iffy in some of Tu Che Le Vanita is good as is the conducting. While Tu Che Le Vanita and Habanera are brilliant both in music and staging, the highlight is the tour-De-force that is the second act of Tosca.

The singing and acting varies to just okay to phenomenal. Weakest was Renato Cioni's Caveradossi, great voice, stiff acting. Robert Bowman and Dennis Wickes are much more competent in the acting, but perhaps strained vocally. The rest though is phenomenal. Maria Callas I think deserves her status as a giant of opera. While there have been times when I haven't warmed to her voice finding her high notes sharp and wobbly on occasions I admire her hugely for her dramatic intensity and her musicianship. You see this here particularly in Tosca.

Her Tu Che Le Vanita is lacking in security in some of the high notes, but the interpretation is dramatically moving, while her Habanera fares even better. She is at her best in the 1964 second act Tosca, while not perfect vocally she does have some fine moments especially with Vissi D'Arte, and as expected her acting, interpretation and musicianship are astounding. Dominating this performance is Tito Gobbi's Scarpia. Like with Callas, I occasionally find I don't quite warm to Gobbi's voice. No doubt he can sing, it is a good voice, and his Posa, Iago and Tonio are among the best interpretations of these roles, but there are times where I can find him shouty and strained in the high register, particularly as Figaro and Don Giovanni.

He has been better vocally, but that doesn't matter really, because his singing is really quite powerful here. What makes Gobbi one of my favourite Scarpias is his acting, when it came to musicianship, interpretations, intelligence and intensity Gobbi for me was one of the best there was. You see that with his Scarpia, while there is an element of humanity, he is also sinister and downright despicable. Staging-wise, the murder scene and Callas and Gobbi circling the table like predator and victim were really inspired, the latter is an image that I have never forgotten.

Overall, while there are imperfections, this is a legendary performance, and contains one of the best Toscas and Scarpias you will see. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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