Holland Festival 1959 or La Divina in Amsterdam

1959 was a good Callas year. In January that year she first sang at Carnegie Hall, where she gave a concert performance of Il Pirata. It was a great triumph. This was followed by a few Medea’s(Cherubini) in London and a short tour in Spain and Germany.

And then the great moment arrived: her long-awaited performance in Amsterdam. Thousands of people gathered at Schiphol Airport to greet her.

Maria Callas arrives in the Netherlands in 1959. On the right: Peter Diamand, chairman of the Holland Festival.

The lights in the Hall were extinguished and all the spotlights were on her as she descended the Concertgebouw steps. Only the musicians of the Concertgebouw Orchestra had lights on their desks, which, according to witnesses, had wrapped the stage in a romantic atmosphere.

Callas was then technically at the height of her powers. She began with a tather cautiously sung ‘Tu che vedi il mio tormento’ from Spontini’s La vestale, but with ‘Surta è la notte’ from Verdi’s Ernani she already let go of all brakes.

The audience went wild with enthusiasm, which stimulated Callas to become even more intense and dramatic in her perfectly intoned reading of ‘Tu che le vanità ‘ (Don Carlo). She finished with the mad scene from Il Pirata, a true tour-de-force.

She gave every note a different colour, her pianissimo was breathtaking and the coloraturas optimal. A true Divina. If only I had been there then!

Spontini, Verdi, Bellini
Live in Amsterdam 1959
Maria Callas, Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Nicola Rescigno
EMI 5626832