Maria Callas, From the Opera ‘Gianni Schicchi’

{Ed Note: A number of weeks ago, I posted an article on Hayley Westenra, whom I adore. One of the clips I included was Westenra singing O Mio Babbino Caro. DlphcOracl sent me comments, pointing out  the importance of emotional connectivity and role interpretation in delivering an aria. Voice enough is not enough. To show what he meant, he pointed me to Maria Callas singing O Mio Babbino Caro for comparison purposes. The below post pulls from DlphcOracl’s notes to me.}

O Mio Babbino Caro is a gorgeous soprano aria from the opera Gianni Schicchi.  The opera is minor league but the aria is one of the most beautiful ever written.  The clip below is sung by a very young Maria Callas, before she developed a host of problems regarding her weight, marriages and love affairs, etc., which later detracted from her voice.  Callas stands alone, however, in interpreting and making an aria or opera role a part of her and being able to convey its human dimension to an audience.  There are several other renditions of this from other singers with equal or better vocal instruments but none make this aria as magical as Callas.  It is why she is still called ‘La Divina’.  She truly personified the Italian expression: “Opera is life.”

Compared to Westenra’s version, the pace of Callas is faster, more anxious, and her phrasing is impeccable. After all, this is a young woman pleading for her father’s approval to marry the young man she loves. As you listen to Callas sing this, she is entirely believable as a vulnerable young woman, deeply in love, pleading with her father. Hayley Westenra is not. In fact, if you were unfamiliar with O Mio Babbino Caro you would not have a clue as to what Westenra was singing about.

Here is a clip of Callas in 1955 with Georges Pretre conducting, followed by the Westenra clip re-posted here for your convenience.

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