MARIA CALLAS by Jürgen Kesting


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 One of the three best books on the voice of Maria Callas, following John Ardoin's The Callas Legacy (1977) and Michael Scott's Maria Meneghini Callas (1992). German journalist Kesting makes no effort to spell out yet again sensational incidents from Callas's life (1923-77), and indeed seems to have done little original research or interviewing for the life side of his study. His is largely an aesthetic biography, offering a chronological overview of the diva's vocal and dramatic abilities, and exploring the influence on her vocalizing of her teachers, conductors, and rivals. Kesting attends closely to Callas's recording career, both in performance and in the studio, noting the scaled-down voice in the studio recordings, where Callas didn't have to project to fill an opera house. The author makes clear how the earliest recordings astound with their bare-nerved electricity, fullness, freshness, and devil-may-care agility. Callas had the briefest career of any of the century's major sopranos, with only a 12-year span in which she was in fearless top-voice as she brought new dramatic meaning to bel canto roles that before her had fallen into a meaningless babble of pretty note-spinning. The young diva amazed audiences by taking on heavy roles--such as Isolde and Turandot--and then, days after, performing exquisitely energized bel canto roles. Callas's decline, Kesting shows, came about as fame drew her into the glitterati, and scandal, exhaustion, and her nerves dried up her voice. Insightful, but not light reading: best for the confirmed opera/Callas fan. (Illustrations)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-55553-179-2
Page count: 456pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1993