Marias seem to polarize the opera world. Ewing of that ilk still generates more search term hits around here than even Calixto Bieito. In her day Malibran was the Maria of note and controversy and more recently, of course, we have Callas. Callas was a bit before my time and it’s only really recently that I’ve listened to her much. It started, ironically, with the Pasolini Medea where she doesn’t sing but does radiate a most compelling presence. So, when Presto had the complete EMI recordings on sale for something like $20 I took the plunge and 7+ hours MC on CD duly arrived. Just looking at the leaflet blew my mind. She recorded everything from Rosina to Turandot and sang monster roles at an age when, today, she’d most likely still be in a YAP. I have to say it’s a really mixed bag. There’s some gorgeous singing. The Casta diva in this box set is exquisite. There’s also stuff that’s almost unbearable to listen to. Overall though I was still really wondering what all the fuss was about. So I got hold of a couple of documentary DVDs on Callas that included some footage of her on stage; concert rather than opera. There seems to be virtually no video record of her actual opera performances. It makes a huge difference. It’s not like she does much in the way of acting but there’s something, like in the Medea, utterly compelling. She’s still polarizing. My partner likened her voice to scratching on a chalkboard and the cats seem to agree. I was even asked this morning if the “Callas marathon” was over yet. I think the investigation may be continued but tact may be required. Also, am I completely nuts in noticing a certain similarity of timbre between Callas and Sondra Radvanovsky? It’s hard to be sure comparing 50 year old recordings with my memory of a singer I’ve only seen live.