Puccini: Manon Lescaut
Callas, Maria/Serafin, Tullio
This was Callas' last La Scala recording, made in July 1957 after a punishing recording schedule including Turandot; we are fortunate to find her and Di Stefano in such splendid voice knowing how soon they would both start running into more serious and frequent vocal difficulties. Callas' mentor Serafin is in good form, too; fleet and light in the bustling crowd scenes and indulgently permissive of rallentandos for his singers in plush outpourings like "Donna non vidi mai". This technique of placing intimate reflective revelations of inner thoughts against frenetic action is almost a cliché - or at least a trademark trope - in Puccini's operas, but he is such skilled craftsman it works every time, whether in "La Bohème", "La rondine" or "Turandot", and here it exercises its magic as he homes in on the feisty protagonist and the naive hero gamely battling against worldly cunning.