When I first met Maria Callas she was very plump, but later on she slimmed down to a very svelte figure. She always reminded me of a tigress at bay.
A very sensitive woman, she wore her heart on her sleeve.
She could be very temperamental too, and would often burst into tears if things were not going well at a rehearsal or recording.
At that time she was married to an older, dapper, aristocratic looking Italian gentleman named Menegheni who was present at her recordings.
I was in the Philharmonia Orchestra in the ‘fifties and she
recorded Rossini’s opera, “The Barber of Seville” with us at the Kingsway Hall, London. Tito Gobbi also sang and the conductor was Alceo Galliera.
Things went well until we came to the very difficult aria
“Una voce poco fa”. We made a few “takes” but none were “keepers”. Callas was getting more nervous and then she shuddered and had a sudden fit of tears.
Walter Legge, the Founder and Artistic Director of the
Philharmonia Orchestra was also in charge of the recording. He hurried out of the recording booth, put his arms round her and gently guided her into the booth followed by Galliera.
We waited for fifteen minutes and then she came back, much composed, sang the aria perfectly and then we all packed up and went home.
She also recorded songs and arias with the Philharmonia conducted by Tullio Serafin at Watford Town Hall in Hertfordshire. He would have been in his late seventies at the time and had a very confident air about him and, of course, he was steeped in experience and seemed to instill confidence in Callas; her recordings with him were a great success. Not once did she shed a tear, and I think for this Serafin must take a lot of the credit.
All of these recordings are now issued on re-mastered
CD’s. We, the orchestra members, however, never received any royalties or repeat fees for them because we were just paid by the session, and that was that.