Maria Callas, a captivating soprano who rose to fame in the 1950s, was well known for her portrayal of Carmen from Bizet's opera, Carmen
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. Callas had a remarkable voice, but it wasn't her voice alone that people remember. She had a stage presence unlike any other opera singer. She wasn't just a singer, she was an actress. She meticulously studied her songs, delved into the meanings of the lyrics, and meditated on the minds of her characters. (Learn the Habanera lyrics and text translation
.) On stage her hard work was evident. Not only is there such humanity in her voice, it shows in her face and body language. Don't believe me? Take a look at these YouTube videos of a handful of different opera singers and listen for the differences.
Jennifer Larmore has a silky and very sultry voice, but her performance is entirely technique and devoid of art (though with studio recordings, this is sometimes the case). Angela Gheorghiu's performance is actually quite impressive. I thought her voice lacked in command, but she makes up for it by brilliantly communicating the meaning of the song through her inflection. Denyce Graves, though quite beautiful in appearance and sound, gave a boring performance. Her facial expression rarely changed, and for the most part, remained angry looking until the piece was over. Agnes Baltsa's performance was also quite good, however, it seemed forced and unnatural and made me feel a bit uneasy. I know some of you will not agree that Callas' performance was better than any one of the YouTube videos listed above, and that's perfectly okay. But having watched each of them multiple times, I still find myself watching Callas' performance the most.