Maria Callas

Tamara Gura

By Francis Muzzu

Within a few moments of hearing her sing, it’s obvious that Tamara Gura was born to have a stellar career in opera. The young mezzo soprano has an absolutely natural ability to communicate through her voice, thrilling audiences with its velvety warmth, its expressive range of colours and its effortless coloratura. Born in the USA into a family of Polish-Italian descent, Gura took piano, dance and drama lessons as a child. Aged 13, she had a revelation: ‘My voice teacher gave me Italian art songs to learn along with arias from Carmen: I was hooked!’

Maria Callas

Her brillant but all-too-brief stardom, to a lonely premature death, echoes much of what we have come to expect from our idols today. She was, says Michael Tanner, the last in the golden age of operatic Divas; but was she also among the first high priestesses in the self-destructive cult of modern-day celebrity?

The studio years

Callas made commercial recordings from 1949 to 1972, though her last discs were never released. Francis Muzzu gives an overview of her vocal estate and artistic development during this period, listening to a small selection of her studio recordings. There are many more live ‘pirate’ recordings to investigate, often wonderful; but the following discs, recently remastered by Warner Classics, give a vivid, studio-quality impression of how Callas actually sounded as her career progressed

Callas on display

Maria Callas – The Exhibition is the largest ever show dedicated to La Divina, with artefacts and memorabilia, fashion items, photos and press-cuttings which give perhaps the most complete view to date of the singer’s personal and professional life

Anna Pirozzi

Anna Pirozzi is a dramatic coloratura soprano with uncommon reserves of strength combined with supple sweetness in her voice. She is an ideal interpreter of 19th-century Italian scores, especially by Verdi, and is making an impact on the international stage for her intense portrayals of some of opera’s most complex and compelling heroines

Professor Anthony Ogus

After months of striving to unearth rare operatic gems, Professor Anthony Ogus returns to the familiar territory of Wagner, but in the distinctly unfamiliar surroundings of Bulgaria’s capital. Here, the opera is full of rewards, though getting a simple yes or no answer has its challenges

Tristan and Isolde

By Owen Mortimer · Illustrations: Catherine Ashmore

All eyes were on the opening night of this production by ENO’s incoming artistic director Daniel Kramer, with set designs by the Turner Prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor. Their take on Wagner’s tale of lust, betrayal and redemption is consistently engaging with ashes of brilliance, but the real star of the show is conductor Ed Gardner


By Owen Mortimer · Illustrations: Clive Barda

This latest instalment in Covent Garden’s fascinating survey of lesser known 20th-century operas was staged on a grand scale with some superb casting, but in the nal reckoning fell short of its own ambitions

In Parenthesis

By Peter Reynolds · Illustrations: Bill Cooper

Welsh National Opera celebrated its 70th anniversary with a newly commissioned opera. In Parenthesis is based on David Jones’ prose poem of 1937 about his experiences in the First World War, and this production marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

The Mikado

By Ken Walton · Illustrations: James Glossop

The opening night of Martin Lloyd-Evans’ colourful new production of The Mikado seemed as if it was being thrust on us before it was truly watertight. It has potential, but it didn’t hit the ground running

La fanciulla del West

By Karyl Charna Lynn · Illustrations: Brescia e Amisano

At La Scala, 106 years after is premiere, La fanciulla del West was supposed to be performed as Puccini originally composed it. I say ‘supposed’ because in the end, Eva Maria Westbroek, suffering from a cold, cancelled her opening night as Minnie and in stepped Barbara Haveman, a last-minute substitution who sang the role pretty much in its more familiar revised version


By Francis Carlin · Illustrations: Elisa Haberer

A commission from Munich, Reimann’s Lear was first performed in 1978. Paris heard it in 1982, sung in French. Reverting to the original German, this new staging rounded off a fascinating if flawed year at the Paris Opera, artfully book-ending a season of new productions that kicked off with Moses und Aron

Terra Nova oder Das Weisse Leben

By George Jahn · Illustrations: Ursula Kaufmann

Spoiler alert: this new work tells the story of three astronauts looking for a new planet to save Earth’s population, but fail in their mission. Moritz Eggert’s opera itself does better, but still narrowly misses expectations – though not for lack of trying. There’s simply too much going on all at once and, at almost three hours, it’s just too long

Les Troyens

By Tom Sutcliffe · Illustrations: Hans Jörg Michel

What could have justified Hamburg Opera’s drastic downsizing of Berlioz’s masterpiece? Pascal Dusapin’s version takes much away and leaves you feeling correspondingly diminished. The audience got out of the opera house after only three hours and 40 minutes – which speaks volumes

Yaniv D’Or

By Ashutosh Khandekar

Countertenor Yaniv D’Or bridges the cultural divide between the Old World and the New in Latino Ladino, his new album for Naxos that unites the sounds of 17th-century Spain with music from South America