From our beloved guest blogger Ruddy Adam.
Maria Callas, the Supernatural Voice of Operatic Music — Plus Our Choice for the Greatest Singer, Songwriter, Composer, Musician, and Entertainer Ever
I stand with Miss Buck on the late Maria Callas: “You cannot categorize her, nor should anyone try to, except to say she’s the most brazenly innovative operatic ever.”
The reason for this is you never knew which Maria Callas was going to show up (the expressive actress or the pure operatic), or what she was going to do with a piece (the one who would sing as written, which was somewhat rare, or the one who innovated and made the piece hers in such a way that no one else could sing it that way), which to me is what makes her the greatest operatic singer ever. She was innovative, expressive, surprising, dramatic, extremely passionate, and most of all, raw and unhinged from the standard.
Wise conductors and orchestras knew exactly what to do with her: They let her be herself, and tried their best to follow her! That’s what you do with genius. If you are fortunate enough to run into genius, you don’t try to restrain it—you let that genius run free. You listen. You observe. You ask questions. You follow it. You never try to control genius.
Our choice for the greatest female (and possibly all-around) songwriter, lyricist, composer, entertainer, and singer ever, Tori Amos, of course comes to mind.
A child prodigy, Tori was playing the piano at two and could play any song after hearing it once by the age of three. She composed her first songs at three, and received a scholarship to study classical music and voice from the prestigious Peabody Institute of Music at barely five-years-old, the youngest student ever to receive a scholarship.
After almost seven years of classical training, at age eleven Tori was asked to leave Peabody by the damned idiots running the place, because of her insistence upon improving certain classical pieces. A precocious notion—certainly!—but when you are fortunate enough to have a pure genius in your midst, you want to turn her loose and free her to innovate and create. Our education institutes seldom work that way, however, and often lose a lot of brain-power because of it.
We of course are the winners because of the school’s rigidity, because we now have over 20-years of Tori’s terrific music, which we shall soon showcase. See the surprise piece at the end.
Now, among opera listeners you have a horde of left-brained purists. They want every note sung and played as written. That’s fine. But they ought to stay home and listen to a studio version of a song—if that’s what they like. You know left-brainers; they don’t have much bend in them. Every single thing is either pure or polluted. Non-linear thinking never enters their mental arrangement. They are those teachers who open the book on page one and run straight through it without the slightest break. No extraneous thought. Nothing that might challenge the standard. Blah!
Purists will always prefer over Callas the wonderful soprano Joan Sutherland who sang everything exactly as written—and perfectly so. But aside from Sutherland’s wonderful voice, it is at times the type of opera that will put a walrus to sleep. Or is like watching Eric Clapton play a guitar. He stands and strums and hum, hum, hum, never moving, looking something like aged banana holding onto a leaf of poison ivy.
If one wants passion and improvisation, then Callas is your singer. If one wants consistency and purity, then Sutherland is your singer. I personally like them both to a point, but there are twenty Sutherland sopranists, perfect voice and all; on the other hand there is one Maria, and she puts me on my knees every time I hear her, because you can hear her searching down as deeply as possible in her soul to give her listeners what no one else has: an extreme passion and a heart-pounding dramatic delivery.
Think Janis Joplin versus most any other Pop singer, insofar as passion, innovation, and delivery go. No one compares. You get the point.
Even when Maria Callas was young and hit and held high notes as no one else has ever done, she may herself add a high note at the end of a piece. During coloratura (bouncy, with smooth runs, then drastic leaps, then rapid alternations between two close notes) sections of a piece she may leap when the standard called for smoothness. Or when a voice leap was the standard she may move gracefully away from a note. This purists hated. Those who love innovators (those who introduce new or change into something) loved her. Audiences adored her for her passion and obvious rebellion, because she did what her ear told her was the right thing to do, and it worked.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard Rock & Rollers cover a piece and butcher it, trying to change it when they do not have the ability to do so. One must be an Elvis, a Gary Moore, a Janice Joplin, a Dave Brubeck, a Tori Amos, a Maria Callas to do this and succeed—and such geniuses are rare as venomous vipers who come up to you and try to help you rather than fill you with their poison. Double entendre intended!
Another reason you can’t categorize Maria is that she could sing anything—and would, especially when she was young. Verdi’s Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar) opera about some of the trials, wars, loves, and tribulations in the Biblical Prophets Yaremiah and Danial is not only torturously long, the vocals are a virtual musical obstacle course. The singers must bring out every emotion there is, and express each one quite dramatically.
Maria, however, runs through the passionate soprano role, Abigale, and the extremely dramatic coloratura sections as if she is singing a lullaby.
Here is a small part of Nabucco, in which Maria adds a note at the end and blows it away, much to the audience’s pleasure, as you can hear. I chose this very old one, because she was at her best at this time, though she continues to be a thrillingly exciting operatic throughout her career.
Casta Diva (Virgin Goddess) is a prayer to be sung by the soprano, Norma, acted and sung in this case by Maria. It is perhaps the most grueling and wide-ranging soprano role ever, with only a few attempting to sing it over the eons (perhaps 15 sopranos). One famous soprano stated that she would rather sing all three Brunnhilde roles of Wagner’s opera Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) in one night than to sing the short prayer by Norma in Act 1 of Casta Diva.
“Casta Diva,” an Opera by Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835) sung by Maria Callas (1923–1977) (9:00) Live & Raw!
This one is very fitting for some of the studies we’ve been doing on the Lord’s Absolute Forgiveness of our physical sins. Often people who have deep consciences find it difficult to understand that once the Ever-Living forgives them, they stand forgiven.
It is, however, pure blasphemy to ask Him again to forgive their sins, once they understand the truth, yet I know they do so in ignorance, mainly because a huge part of cultic Khristianity teaches that Believers must continuously confess their sins and must receive forgiveness over and over, as if the Lord cannot perfect the act of forgiving them any better than the priests of the Old Contract could, who had to go into the Temple over and over with animal sacrifices for forgiveness of sins.
Khrist entered the most Separated of Separated Places (the Holy of Holies) once, and after that those who trust in Him are forgiven—from then on. No other sacrifice is needed or called for, because the Lord has given Himself as the Ultimate Sacrifice for all time. In the Ever-Living’s eyes we who are in union with Yasu died with Khrist on that Cross, and our sins died along with that death. He therefore no longer remembers them (Especially Hebrews 10.17; and too Hebrews 8.12; Isaiah 43.25; Yaremiah 31.24).
Although I sent this one out some time ago, let me remind you to listen to this girl manipulate her voice. There are so many places to listen I’ll only mention one, where she goes falsetto (the highest end of her range) after the piano solo and asks for the Lord to save her. There is no other word to use except “haunting,” especially when you know she is begging for forgiveness for the pile of sins she believes she has committed.
Khristians ought to be completely guilt free, as Yohn said, and have absolute confidence in their union with Yasu. I Yohn 3.21: “3.21. Loved-Ones, if our heart cannot condemn us, we have absolute confidence with the Ever-Living.”
A masterful pianist and composer/songwriter (Tori composes all her music, and writes 98% of it), an extraordinary voice manipulator, the only thing that perhaps outdoes those is Tori’s lyrics. Add to all those assets that she is a mesmerizing entertainer, and that is why we have seen her live more than anyone else. We saw her back when she was touring solo, er well, just she and her piano(s); and then later after she added a few pieces and had an ensemble. But it is she who only matters when you watch her perform.
Notice her time changes and her decibel range movements, two things she does throughout her music as if she were playing only one chord. Again, add to this that as a sopranist, she does everything one can possibly do in that range with her voice. For those of you who have not heard her, you will see that she would have been a fabulous operatic soprano.
These are the reasons we all chose her in 2000 as the best female singer/songwriter/composer/musician/entertainer ever, and we have all come to the conclusion since that time that she is the best of all of the above for both males and females.
“Crucify,” Tori Amos (5:30)
The Fantastic Lyrics of Tori Amos – http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/toriamos/crucify.html