The review by Winthrop Sargeant leaves us in no doubt as to the quality of the performance by Callas. It is undoubtedly a reverential account full of praise and approbation. Although Sargeant was clearly captivated by the entire performance, it is interesting to note that he sees the combination of singing, theatre, drama and personality as being critical to the audiences experience and enjoyment. He sees no reason to focus on one aspect of the performance at the expense of any other and stresses that it is the alliance of many individual factors which combine to produce such a sublime experience.
He makes no attempt to shy away from highlighting Callas’s well documented vocal idiosyncrasies, the tendency to wobble in the high notes of the upper register and the “reedy” tone quality sometimes in evidence. He even suggests that it seems to add intensity to her singing.
I would concur with Sargeant in this respect. I feel that this frailty which is evident in the recording of Ah ! fors’ e` lui’ particularly at 1.16 and 2.58, towards the end of the recording, transmit an overwhelming degree of emotion and passion. The accompaniment which begins bright and breezy, is barely present, apart from a melodic section between 1.20 and 1.54. It is Callas’s voice which is the predominant overriding instrument.
Callas’s voice was well known for its 3 distinct registers. We can hear in the recording that her low register was dark and melancholic, while her upper register sounds abundant and light. Her range while performing was just short of 3 octaves, and it is the combination of depth and intensity which makes the recording resonate with such emotion.
We can see from the review that Sargeant believes the total performance is greater than the sum of all its parts. The review invites us to consider the depth of performance and this holds true also of the recording. It seems so much more than just a song, which is essentially, just a...