Puccini: La Boheme (complete opera) with Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Anna Moffo, Antonino Votto, Chorus & Orchestra of La Scala, Milan

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Customer Reviews:

  • Callas Mimi a Revelation
    Although I grew up with many of M.Callas recordings, it wasn't until very recently that I listened in full to her Mimi, a role she never sang onstage, unfortunately, and only learned for this recording. There are many really wonderful recordings and performances of this popular opera and of this sweet and touching character, the tragic seamstress who falls in love with the poet Rodolpho, one of Puccini's most endearing characters, Mimi.
    In the last act, as Mimi is fading and her voice lovingly speaks to her friends gathered around her, I found myself weeping just by the sheer sweetness and love Callas had found to express this endearing character.
    She got me! Who would have known that this great singing actress who had sung Wagner, Bellini, Verdi, great dramatic roles around the world, could scale her voice and expression into this unforgettable jewel of a performance. Such musical genius is rare. I am so grateful that I was alive during this era to experience Callas, her talent continues to touch people everywhere through these remarkable recordings. Anthony Plumer...more info
  • Who would have thought?
    Who would have thought that Callas, who had the great voice for Verdi, Bellini, Rossini, Donizetti, Spontini, Cherubini, Bizet, Giordano, Gluck, Massenet, Haydn (yes, she performed a world premiere for a long forgotten opera called Orfeo ed Euridice), great Puccini roles, and Wagner, would have succeeded at an AMAZING Mimi, a frail role associated with light sopranos who play around with the character. From her very first breath to the last utterance by the flower girl in her death scene, no other soprano could have bettered Callas in both voice and dramatization in this indelible recording of Puccini's favorite opera (ask around, it's not Madama Butterfly). Of course, since Maria Anna Sophia Cecilia Kalegoropoulos was born a natural tragedienne, she was undoubtedly going to succeed in this role. This is one of the many reasons, possibly the most important reason, why this Boheme should not be overlooked.

    Then there is Giuseppe di Stefano, the passionate Italian tenor who sings Rodolfo like no one ever did or ever will. He sang it with an ardour which would leave one in tears. He is the ideal Rodolfo voice, with his ability to color phrases with shades and tones of passion and love and hate and anger. In this aspect, he was almost Callas' equal. He doesn't sing it like Pavarotti, who I believe sings Rodolfo like a cow being dragged into the slaughterhouse. Pavarotti screams too many of his high notes, and he only became world famous for his nine high C's in the Pour Mon Ame aria from Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment. He fails however, in darker composer works like Puccini and Verdi. He should have stayed in the bel canto repertoire where he could have done more wonders with his voice.

    Then there the HOT HOT HOT HOT HOT HOT HOT and FIERY Anna Moffo as the controversial Musetta. How fortunate we are to have this first-rate prima donna in this recording side-by-side with Callas and di Stefano. And Rolando Panerai...stellar cast!

    Not a recording to miss. ...more info
  • Wonderful surprise!
    I'm sure Callas fans will wish to burn me at the stake after my review. I greatly respect opera singers because they are able to sing with such glorious voices. They are the Olympic weightlifters of the vocal art. I can barely sing in the shower. Whether one loves a particular soprano/tenor is really a matter of preference. Callas' performance is very good - breathing, diction, pronunciation, etc., however I find a certain "chilliness" in her voice. Technically, she is superb and displays her dramatic prowess. However, my favorite soprano is Anna Moffo whom shines as Musetta. Her voice is warm, rosy and lyrical. She really is able to convey the flirtiness of her character. Di Stefano pours his heart into Rodolfo and sings with animal magnetism. Like Corelli, he sang with such intensity which contributed to his vocal decline. He still gives a terrific performance to be remembered for the ages. Overall, I greatly enjoy this La Boheme for several reasons. It is a great historical record of Callas' career, supported by fantastic singers Moffo and Di Stefano. ...more info
  • Great Recording
    This is a great recording of the Puccini Operas with first class soloists. I like the way the tracks are numbered making easy access to selected parts of the operas. Though it is not in stereo, it has a really excellent sound. ...more info
  • La Boheme - Callas' sublime Mimi
    Callas wasn't too fond of Puccini even though she sang all his great heroines on disc and some of them to never surpassed perfection. She never sang Puccini at La Scala and sang Madama Butterfly only three times. Even though she did record Mimi and Manon Lescaut, she never sang them on stage. This Mimi is great surprise of gentle, yet dramatic singing. This Mimi isn't just vulnerable and loving but also a strong woman. Remember Mimi leaves Rodolfo for the Baron? Callas shows why Mimi is doing this. In Act I&II she sounds lovely and charming but her greatest moments are in act III and especially act IV. For her "Sono andanti, fingeva di dormire" she can be called the definite Mimi. And this is only one of her great moments in this touching role. Listen how she has lightened her voice, how Mimi's consumption is portrayed by vocal colours only... Musicians call this quality morbidezza. The glowing "Si, mi chiamamo Mimi" isn't a showcase here but a vivid life-story of a precious girl. Callas' perfect diction, infallible phrasing and immense vocal range make Mimi an "easy" part for her. But Callas sings Mimi not as veristic as others, her singing is based on Belcanto, which she was taught by her teacher Elvira de Hidalgo. Callas cleared many verismo-prejudices (She works without sobs, overdone sighs and vocal tricks) but with the VOICE. Colouring, spinning the most gentle, soaring pianissimi... Act IV alone is worth the set.
    Di Stefano sounds CHARMING and less icy than Bj?rling as Rodolfo. (As much as I love Bj?rling but I think his voice lacked charm and the sunny quality so necessary for Puccini's poet) A golden voice, IDEAL for Rodolfo. The only Rodolfo that sounds even more beautiful is young Carreras.
    Anna Moffo sounds wicked and gorgeous as Musetta, I prefer her Musetta over her late recording of Mimi. Panerei is a great Marcello. Votto conducts well, even though Serafin could have done more with the score.

    One word to summarize: SUBLIME! One of the best Bohemes ever!...more info

  • Not a first-rank Boheme
    Comparing this with the Freni/Pavarotti/Karajan recording that is my benchmark for the work...

    1. While I enjoy large-scale performances of opera scores in general, and Karajan's in particular, Votto's lighter hand is probably closer to the composer's intentions and serves the music very nicely.

    2. di Stefano has a marvelous heroic gleam in his voice - and, unlike Pavarotti, actually articulates the syllables. It would be nice if he had Pav's power - since when he tries to cut through the orchestra at full blare I'm afraid he's going to rupture something. But as I once said in a Wagner review: Opera, like politics, is an art of compromises.

    3. I know the Callas fanatics will flay me alive for this, but Mimi isn't a role where you can get by on "expressiveness" alone. At some points, the soprano simply has to make with the canary. But when La Divina goes for that big offstage "Amor!" at the end of "Che gelida manina", she sounds more like a cat whose tail got under the rocking chair....more info
  • NO, NO , NO, NO!
    As much as I respect Callas (and I've also mentioned this in some of my other reviews), she is not the ideal Puccinian soprano. She is really good in some Verdi operas but she's not the best choice for the Puccini ones. Especially in the famous aria "Mi Chiamano Mimi" she is REALLY AWFULL. She takes gasps all the time and does not perfectly finish a sentence (listen to "e in cielo").And it is a pity if you're going to buy La Boheme (one of my most beloved operas) and not have one of the best recordings (allthough here Di Stefano and Moffo are very good,thus the 2stars). My favourite recording is the one with Renata Tebaldi and Carlo Bergonzi but there are other ones also quite good (though not equally good to the Tebaldi set).

    Take my advice, don't choose for Callas as Mimi, YOU'LL BE SORRY!If you really want to FEEL PUCCINI (and we know that Puccini is all about feelings) buy the Tebaldi edition or another one!NOT CALLAS!...more info

  • Simply beautiful
    I am not especially a Puccini fan, and La Boh¨¨me is not one of my favorite operas. Nonetheless, the first time I listened to this CD I was extraordinarily moved by the performance. The singers just "click" like they've always belonged together. The music is sung with such passion that it is impossible to avoid getting caught up in the waves of emotion. This is a brilliant performance, truly Italian opera at its best....more info
  • Callas: An Unexpected, Heartbreaking Mimi
    Votto, almost more than any other conductor I can think of, has a feel for this score that is natural and always in the moment - like no other. I know every note of this score, but that night - on 48 year old vinyl - I was hearing things in the score I'd not noticed before. Act II has never been more fun than in this recording and the young Anna Moffo is a delight - frothy, self-important and able to
    strike the perfect balance between sincerity and superficiality.

    Callas's Mimi is fine, believable, in Act I, even if not as meltingly sung as her rivals on record (but she's still pretty darned close!).

    Then come Acts III and IV - and no one comes close to matching Callas here - Freni and Tebaldi approach this, but Callas's uniqueness is special - if not for everyone. The sense of gravitas she gives to Mimi is made all the more remarkable by her lightness of touch and downplaying of the actual morbidness. Every note is weighted to give the maximum effect of a total
    character and Mimi has never come more alive in any recording. Callas knows this character inside and out. It only makes me wonder what she might have been like in this role on stage. Even never having performed Mimi, Callas offers the most complete portrait of this tragic heroine, getting everything just right.

    No this Boheme is not Callas alone as Votto's entire, perfectly blended cast, absolutely sparkles. Everyone sings this music as though it were brand new and the ink not yet dry on the score,. There is such youthful vibrancy and freshness to every bar. If the Act III scene between Mimi and Marcello fails to wrest a tear from your eye, well my friends, I can't then imagine what could!

    Di Stefano pours his everything into Rodolfo and even with the voice not quite what it had been just a few years earlier - it's still a gorgeous sound and no Rodolfo is more passionate. The scenes between he and Mimi are some of the finest examples of acting with the voice I've yet encountered. Diction, breathing, sense of phrasing, timing and the colors each of them produce give an unusual sense of depth to these youthful characters.

    Again, Votto's attention to the tiniest detail without an ounce of fussiness, his sense of propulsion - expanding and contracting the music to optimum effect for the singer is revelatory.
    ...more info
  • A most surprising Mimi
    Again Maria Callas takes us by surprise. We of the post-war generation, so accustomed to seeing her life in "Life" photoessays, so prone to picturing her as Medea, as Tosca---the "fiery" Callas---are forced to re-evaluate her upon encountering her Mimi.

    The first two acts may not have the boundless melting beauty of Tebaldi/Bjorling, or of Freni/Pavarotti. What they DO have is a wonderful, atmospheric, authentic BOHEMIAN sound: the characters endear themselves immediately, and are real and wonderfully etched. The mood has some sparkle to it, unlike some of the more recent, somewhat overblown and ponderous sets.

    By the third act, Maria Callas' Mimi starts to climb head-and-shoulders over her rivals. Her flood of hurt as she confronts Marcello, seeking knowledge of Rodolfo's whereabouts, simply pours out, and the listener is riveted by a degree of wounded hurt not heard in other Mimis.

    One of the most interesting contributions to the set is that of Giuseppe di Stefano's. He conveys something that I've never heard another tenor manage. In "Mimi e una civetta", you hear his scorn, his digust at her flirtaciousness. After close questioning by Marcello, he answers honestly, with painful truthfulness: in "Mimi e tanta malata", you really HEAR, deeply and fully, the full meaning of the opera: he has left her BECAUSE she dying, and he loves her to the point of leaving her, so that she may find a wealthy man who may be able to keep her alive.

    In the performances of other tenors, you understand this vital point more from the libretto than from the voice. In Giuseppe di Stefano's rendition, he uses his wonderfully emotive voice to make this point. It is a wonderful and profoundly sad exposition: he tells this "story" with such skill. Hearing it, I felt as though I really understood Boheme for the first time.

    The last act is the stuff of which tears are made, nary a misstep from any of the principals. The conductor, Votto, has wisely allowed moments of stillness and never seeks to "convince" through bombast. Callas' Mimi fades away with enormous but tasteful pathos. And in di Stefano's final wrenching cries of "Mimi!", I found the ONLY tenor who brings me to real tears---perhaps simply because his ability to convey a reality through his wonderfully expressive voice is so unique.

    Try this set---and see if Freni and Pavarotti can ever again make you FEEL that degree of emotion, the sense you have just shared in some wrenching communal grief. This set has a rare power....more info

  • Callas triumphs again - but Di Stefano matches her
    N.B. This is now available at super-budget price in an excellent Naxos re-engineering.

    1956 was the fiftieth anniversary of the premi¨¨re of "La Boh¨¨me" and in that same year two celebrated recordings were made: this one and the Beecham set, generally acknowledged as a great success despite the occasional blemish in ensembles - testament to the speed at which it was recorded once its distinguished cast had been hastily assembled to record in between other engagements. This recording, however, was clearly executed with great care and affection, and nothing Callas ever recorded was ever less than painstakingly prepared - even though she never actually performed the r?le of Mim¨¬ on stage. Similarly, although Votto might not have had Beecham's ¨¦lan and charisma, he was very experienced and phrases tenderly, bringing plenty of flexible rallentandi into this leisurely account and allowing his singers time to make their points. He instantly establishes an authentic Christmas Eve ambience and at the start of Act III, the liquid flutes, haunting pizzicatos and harp create exactly the right, hushed aural image of a snow-scene; only in the more rumbustious passages does one wish for a touch of Beecham's verve and swagger. In truth, Votto can be just a little dull and lacking in sparkle - and he also stands convicted of what "Gramophone" huffily describes as a "monstrous unwritten crescendo" at the end of Act I; guilty as charged and presumably a habit acquired in the theatre to prevent unwanted premature applause - but artistically vulgar.

    The sound here is distinct and slightly distant, with all the details emerging cleanly and virtually no distortion. I admit to finding my electronically reprocessed, phoney "stereo" version of the Beecham on the Membran label to be even better, but sound is not an issue in either set; the quality of the performances soon sweeps you away. If you want modern sound, the safe option is Karajan's famous 1973 stereo recording with Freni and Pavarotti - and there are valid artistic and interpretative reasons for preferring it overall, depending on your taste.

    I have, in the past, under-estimated this Columbia/EMI recording and listening to the Naxos re-issue has provided an opportunity to reassess its virtues. The surprise for me is Di Stefano's performance; he is inspired by Callas to produce his best work and is in finest voice, the only flaw being a tendency to shout his two top C's. This incipient hardness in his tone prevents him from sounding quite as beautiful as either Bj?rling or Pavarotti but his ardour and sincerity are great compensations; he is every inch the ardent lover, tender in the recitative and desperate in his outpourings of grief. Both he and Callas are so moving in their intimacy and restraint that they make the concluding moments of this famous tearjerker genuinely harrowing rather than histrionic or sentimental.

    Callas is very successful in lightening her voice to create a vulnerable and loveable Mim¨¬ in Act I, but expanding beautifully, for example, into "Ma quando vien lo sgelo". She exhibits all the artistic and vocal touches we expect from her: exquisite portamenti, wonderful variety of tone, verbal acuity and insight. For me, Act III, even more than the concluding Act, shows her at her best: the succession of duets culminating in the great quartet is what you should sample if you are not sure whether you want this set. Callas is inspired and, in turn, inspires her partners. The pathos of her utterance at such moments as "Buon giorno, Marcello...tutti qui sorridenti a Mim¨¬" is quite unmatched by any other singer, however good. In a sense, singing the supposedly less demanding Mim¨¬ was for her like a holiday from killer roles like "Turandot", but she brings all her customary dedication to her characterisation of the little seamstress.

    Panerai is, as ever, in lean, incisive voice, inflecting the text sensitively and sounding very little different from his performance eighteen years later with Karajan but perhaps less inclined here to croon; the duet with Di Stefano opening Act IV works its magic triumphantly. Moffo is in her vocal and temperamental element as the "tart with a heart", Musetta. Zaccaria is a grave and comically lugubrious Colline. The Schaunard could be better, but there are no real weaknesses in the supporting cast even if you have favourite singers in other recordings.

    Neither the Karajan nor the Beecham version is overtaken in my affections by this set; both have marginally more warmth, casts slightly better suited to their parts, and the advantage of superlative conducting - but this version runs both very close and I would not like to be without it.
    ...more info
  • Callas-None Better
    La Boheme in its complete form is splendid no matter what, but Callas, who is clearly at the apex of her powers, is remarkable. This opera, and this version in particular, is a must for anyone who wishes to hear the best that the art form has to offer. Giuseppe di Stephano is pretty good as well. He and Callas were emotionally close, although not in the Biblical sense, however their regard for each other comes through in what many regard as Verdi's best effort....more info
  • Moved to tears
    I just finished listening to this for the first time. Act III&IV are so beautiful, I'll never forget this experience. Callas and di Stefano, what a pair! Please buy this gem to know what La Boheme is all about!...more info
  • The loveliest Boheme
    I have two Bohemes I cherish very highly: This one and the set with Bj?rling and de los Angeles. Both are essential!...more info
  • Bravo Di Stefano
    Actually, Callas is not my favorite Mimi (that would either be Tebaldi or De Los Angeles), but Giuseppe Di Stefano is surprisingly my favorite Roldolfo. The reason I'm surprised is that I personally prefer Jussi Bjorling as a singer, and of course there is Pavarotti's widely famous Rodolfo. But Di Stefano delivers an absolutely unique "Che Gelida Manina" (and I've heard them all) as well as a masterful final two acts. Overall, though, I would give this version 3 or 4 stars ......more info
  • La Boheme at its best
    There are many great Bohemes, my favourites are the classical set with Bj?rling and de los Angeles, this set with Callas and the one with Carreras and Stratas. (On DVD) Callas totally surprised me. Unlike her Medea or Tosca she sounds gentle, vulnerable and loveable. There is this precious colour she only used for Mimi, it's so hard to describe... Di Stefano sounds honeyed, passionate and great as Rodolfo, a role that suited him much better than for example Manrico. Moffo dazzles as young Musetta. It's a great addition to every opera-collection....more info
  • Not my first choice...
    I can't get her Tosca out of my head when I listen...

    In this 1956 recording, Callas's voice has hardened slightly, exhibiting a certain weariness. IMHO, her voice isn't supple enough to embody the frail young girl with the "delicate white hands." In the end, that vocal weariness proved to be a big distraction for me, prompting me to preview other recordings.

    Although Callas slays dramatically in the later acts, I'd rather sacrifice all that glory for a bit of aesthetic purity and realism. And so the Callas becomes my trusty second choice for Boheme. My first choice of course would then be the Bjorling/De Los Angeles because Freni and Gheorghiu also distract me vocally....more info

    La versi¨®n de Votto con Mar¨ªa Callas es sencillamente EXTRAORDINARIA, la verdad que cuando compr¨¦ ¨¦ste CD, jam¨¢s me imagine que podr¨ªa ser de nivel tan alto. Por que, yo encontraba que la voz de la Callas era m¨¢s para Tosca o Norma. Pero que grata sorpresa que ella haga una Mim¨ª tan bien caracterizada.

    100% recomendado....more info

  • A surprisingly tender Mimi
    Why did Tebaldi record Elisabetta in Don Carlo, a role she never sang on stage? If you use such parameters, you'll expose yourself to ridicule. Callas doesn't have a nasty voice, the foolish Californian couldn't even mention a single phrase where Callas sounds "nasty". Let me agree with the previous positive reviewers in here. This is a gorgeous La Boheme with Callas in her prime, di Stefano in his best role and Anna Moffo as lovely Musetta....more info
  • If you only buy one opera album...
    One of the all-time great opera recordings! Callas, Di Stephano, and Moffo are at the top of their form, the direction and orchestra are wonderful, and the recording is astonishing (Thank God for 15 ips!). Even more mind-boggling, especially after you hear Callas's Mimi, is that (according to the album notes) she never performed Mimi on the stage. Di Stephano makes me wonder whatever happened to all the great tenors, and Moffo is sublime. This is what opera is all about....more info
  • Callas rules
    Okay I admit I'm a huge Callas fan, but this is a great set when you consider the performances of Di Stefano and Moffo. I particularly enjoy Moffo's playfulness in the role of Musetta. Although you wouldn't think this role would be right for Callas, she shows the extent of her genius in the subtle way she portrays Mimi. If you listen to her famous "Tosca", and then listen to this Mimi, it is hard to believe it is the same person singing except of course for her distinctive voice timbre. It is obvious she is completely immersed in the role, a tribute to her versatility....more info
  • Satisfied customer
    The product was in perfect shape
    and exactly the one that I wanted.
    The price was really good and the package superb.
    I can gladly recommend the Amazon store....more info


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