By Hadleyblogger Drew
Well, it doesn't seem as if anybody else is putting anything up, so here's a little Callas for you, in one of her signature roles, Tosca. These clips are from her 1964 Covent Garden performance with the incomparable Tito Gobbi as the villanous Scarpia:
It was said that Callas didn't much like the character of Floria Tosca, whom she thought of as a "weak girl." Here, as her lover Cavaradossi is being tortured by Scarpia's henchmen, she sings one of the most famous arias in opera, Vissi d'arte. "Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore" – “I lived on art, I lived on love." In other words, it's all about poor me - what did I do in life to deserve this? Forget Cavaradossi - what about me?
(This isn't entirely fair, of course - Scarpia's blackmailing Tosca, claiming that he'll release Cavaradossi in return for one night of passion. I'd probably be inclined to wonder what I did to deserve this, myself.) Tosca goes on to kill Scarpia (in a clip I'll put up later on), and after a desperate attempt to save Cavaradossi's life fails, she commits suicide in despair. I trust I haven't ruined the ending for you.
Reading the YouTube comments on this is almost laughable. Everyone has an opinion on Callas (some of them quite insightful, actually), and a venomous attitude toward anyone who disagrees with that opinion (which doesn't really add much insight at all). What a lot of people forget is that opera is theater, not just music, and theater isn't always about the finest technical performance. It's about the experience. As for me, I don't pretend to be an expert, but I know what I like. Callas may be past her singing peak at this point but she can still bring it, and the drama of this scene with her old partner Gobbi - the experience, if you will - is thrilling.I've heard the arguments about opera being dull, preposterous, difficult to follow, you name it. There's a lot to those arguments. But I'll defy you to feel that way after seeing Callas' anguish in this performance.