Maria Callas: Living and Dying for Art and Love.

by | Jun 3, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Maria Callas – Living and Dying for Art and Love

Featuring Grace Bumbry, Placido Domingo, Tito Gobbi, Antonio Pappano, Franco Zeffirelli
Director: Steve Cole
Video: 16:9 Color & B&W
Audio: DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo
Extras: Two short video segments from Maria Callas in Tosca (1964)
Length: 71 minutes
Rating: ***

Callas fans and PBS fundraising-show addicts will love this
hagiographic documentary of one of the mid- 20th century’s most public
of divas. We hear talking-head accounts of Callas’ artistry,
particularly in her famed role as Tosca. (Not much is said of her
equally accomplished roles in Carmen and La Traviata.) Fellow opera
stars like Bumbry, Domingo, and Gobbi speak of their experience either
working with her or seeing her perform. A great deal of time is spent
dwelling on her turbulent relationship with Aristotle Onassis. There is
very little musical analysis of her performance style, which, like most
glorious satin robes, had some stray threads. For example, no music
critic of the stature of Norman Lebrecht or Nicholas Slonimsky appears
or is cited, although both had strong opinions about her. Instead we
get Franco Zeffirelli, whose recent film “Callas Forever” maintains
Callas was murdered.

There are a lot of splendid archival photographs, but the filmmakers
can’t resist pumping them up with video software to appear
three-dimensional. (In one shot, Tosca and Cavaradossi appear to move
closer to each other.) The anecdotes are often intriguing, particularly
when Gobbi speaks of working with her on in the famed 1964 Tosca. (That
brings up a nagging question: What happened to Act 1 and III of that
film? Nobody knows. Whatever their fate, you can bet stupidity had a
hand in it.) To their credit, the producers include two fragments from
that performance, but NOT the whole fragment. Would it have broken
their budget to have included the entire Act II, perhaps on a DVD-9
instead of this DVD-5? This video is may be essential if you collect
Callasiana, and perhaps it does help keep her legend alive to casual
consumers of opera. But don’t expect to watch it more than once. [And
it is not the only Callas feature either..Ed.] 

– Peter Bates

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