Cherubini: Medea - Callas, Barbieri, Penno, Modesti; Bernstein. La Scala, 1953
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It is not uncommon for great singers to "own" certain roles during their career. However it is the natural course that after a singer retires other singers emerge to take the torch and put their own stamp on the role. It is fair to say, however, that one singer who has posthumously maintained ownership of one of her signature roles is Maria Callas as Medea. Not to say that other singers haven't since distinguished themselves in this role (Leonie Rysanek and Gwyneth Jones come to mind) but Callas completely enveloped both the beauty and ugliness of this character creating a raw and tragic heroine. In this recording from 1953, she was in the very brief era of her career in which her voiced consistently worked for her. However she never relies solely on her vocal production to carry the performance and does not hesitate to unleashed snarled tones when appropriate (her critics who claim that she used these vocal mannerisms only when her voice stopped working for her should listen to this performance.) She is supported by Fedora Barbieri who lends her great acting chops to the part of Neris, her faithful maid. Her account of "Solo un pianto con te versare" is both beautiful and chilling. Gino Penno is excellent choice for Giasone. His rough tenor lends itself to this brash and unsympathetic character. Leonard Bernstein leads a brisk and very Italianate performance. The sound is excellent.