How does the the newspaper review help us to understand Callas’s reputation as Diva?
The newspaper article by C. Cassidy ( Chicago Tribune, Cassidy.C. 1956- all quotes within are from this source) starts off immediately by telling the reader to take the rumour of Callas being an “actress but not much of the singer” with “a large grain of salt”. This gives an aura of controversy about her in the first line of the review of her performance, that she is one of the modern Opera world’s most talked about female singers. That C. Cassidy presumes that the reader will know of her, and her supposed laboured singing at the Metropolitan, shows her fame and reputation in the public.
Cassidy follows this up by making the point that even a flawed Callas is of such “superlative quality” she would be “incomparable in our time”. She seems to exuded class and quality through the reviewers words, even when he is criticising her “dryness” and its effects on her top notes. This mystical power she has over the audience, and especially C. Cassidy, promotes Callas as more than just a singer to be reviewed, but a performer to be appreciated by all the senses, not just the ears.
As Elaine Moohan says
the stereotypical diva in the classical music world is someone of supreme talent, with great vocal facility and an ability to convey the emotional nuances of the music to her audience (OU reputations, 2008, p.163),
... because both of them – Miyoharu and Miyoei – were destroying her reputation in the locality. Slowly, they — Miyoharu and Miyoei — ... were talented and known to be actresses, erotic dancers and singers who were also trained to play musical instruments. Geisha schools ...
Cassidy talks about this ability to convey the emotional nuances to the audience with his descriptions of her “lovely voice that can command an ensemble but because of the mystery never drowns other voices out”
She fits the stereotypical mould of a Diva by her life imitating her art of portraying tragic figures on stage. Her rise to fame, massive weight loss in 1954 and leaving her partner for one of the richest men in the world, Aristotle Onassis, a year after this review. All for it to have gone horribly wrong by 1977, when she died alone without the man she loved, who had left her to marry the worlds most eligible widow, Jackie Kennedy. (OU reputations, 2008, p.192-193)
Cassidy’s review, although dismisses the rumour of her singing talents being diminished, does correlate with the the image she had, that she was most definitely an actress who could sing, rather than an out and out singer. Divas by their nature are dramatic and tempestuous people, Callas proving this by having “such a bad throat in dress rehearsal they weren’t even sure she could go on” she did go on and deliver a stellar show “even in trouble she was the whole reason for the performance”.
That actual piece she sings in the mad scene is very dramatic, the tempo and dynamics change a lot right at the beginning, the instruments start gently then Callas starts singing (0”16”), becoming louder and more fierce along side the instruments (0”24) being played in short sharp bursts to create tension, followed by quiet background (0”31”) to Callas’s deep repetition. Over all the piece changes the melody throughout, going from quiet gentle signing to loud and lengthy notes being held, the instruments also add to the overall scene being used to emphases the moments of Lucia’s “madness”, they change from the gentle, almost happy intro (0”0 – 0”16”) to booming, doom impending (00”17) bass to moments when the flute and Callas’s voice (02”00”) is used almost like birdsong, bring a light feeling back to the piece. Musically it helps put across to the audience the madness in Lucia, by the melody and tempo quick changes representing her state of mind. This range of singing styles and emotions to be represented show a wide range to be covered by Callas in the one act.