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July 28, 2011

Expert's Expert: Maria Callas teaches Sung Kil Kim

Listen as "Maria Callas teaches Sung Kil Kim how to sing the gorgeous baritone aria, 'Nemico della Patria,' from Giordano's 'Andrea Chenier' with greater emotion and Italian style."

The session occurred on February 28, 1972, part of her now-legendary 1971-72 series of Master Classes at Juilliard.

Wrote Anthony Tommasini in yesterday's New York Times article about the current staging on Broadway of Terrence McNally's 1995 play, "Master Class," "There were 23 two-hour sessions in all, and Callas worked with 25 students whom she had selected after listening to some 300 young singers in audition."

More: "To judge from the critic John Ardoin's excellent 1987 book, 'Callas at Juilliard: The Master Classes,' and especially the classic three-disc EMI recording 'Maria Callas at Juilliard,' which includes long extracts from her coaching of 10 student singers, Callas was not much like the imperious, self-absorbed prima donna of Mr. McNally’s play. At Juilliard she was frank and demanding but unfailingly patient and encouraging. Above all, she was impressively precise in her technical and interpretive critiques."

And: "Even though Callas’s career was all but officially over at the time of these classes (she last sang onstage in 1965), she sang continually as she worked with the students, illustrating her points even when her voice wobbled and her sound was raw."

"There are many flashes of the great Callas on these revealing recordings. Still, it took courage to expose herself as she did. Working with a soprano on an aria from Cherubini’s 'Medea' (sung in Italian), she demonstrates the quality of tragic calm she thinks the magisterial phrases should have. Her singing is strained yet somehow noble."

"A play that hewed closely to Callas's detailed teaching during the Juilliard classes might not be great theater. But there is great drama in listening to Callas at Juilliard, so vulnerable and giving as she works with a new generation of singers, pushing aside for a while any thoughts about her own future. She died just five years later [at 53]."

July 28, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Just fabulous. In some master classes the teacher is so unengaged that it's hard not to fall asleep. Not much to say, a scowl here, an "eh" there... there's just not much you can find useful. And there are the ones who want to do nothing but perform, and they don't pay much attention to the students: "Just play it this way!" Aaargh.
Callas is wonderful - passionate about every note, totally involved in the teaching, not too much demo, not too much hands off, and most important, exacting, honest and direct with the students.

By the way, if you want to hear that gorgeous baritone aria gorgeously performed, you can listen to the great Verdi baritone Piero Cappuccilli right here (the part that people who don't have much patience with opera usually will listen to starts at about 4:15 in):

Posted by: Flautist | Jul 28, 2011 9:27:04 PM

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