Two members of the Presto team were quite literally 'In The Studio' last week, when we had the pleasure of visiting the legendary Abbey Road to gain a bit of behind-the-scenes insight into a real labour of love that's in the pipeline for release in the autumn - CALLAS REMASTERED, which will contain all the recordings which Maria Callas made for EMI/Columbia and Cetra over a period of twenty years, remastered in 24-bit/96kHz sound from the original tapes. (What a strange thrill it was for this particular Callasophile to see these at close quarters!)
Curated with forensic attention to detail as well as palpable affection for the source-material, the project aims to showcase the recordings in high definition and to remove extraneous noises and interference which were flagged in the session-notes but which couldn't be fixed with the technology of the time. During our session we got the chance to compare and contrast the originals with their new incarnations: the orchestral detail really sparkles in a restored extract from Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, and it was fascinating to watch one of the team 'photoshop' out a faint high-pitched 'whistle' at the beginning of 'Vissi d'arte' before our eyes!
Other issues which have been fixed arose from primitive editing techniques used on the original recordings (such as the degeneration of tapes due to literal 'cutting-and-pasting' with glue!) - though the engineers have resisted any temptations to edit the performances on aesthetic grounds, such as by dropping in more successful top notes from elsewhere.
The 69-CD set, which will be released in September, consists of 26 complete opera recordings (including the seminal 1953 Tosca and Lucia di Lammermoor with di Stefano and Tito Gobbi), as well as 13 recital discs including her 1949 solo recording debut and some of her latest recordings from 1969.
The box will present the recordings in their original artwork and be accompanied by a 132-page book including essays, rare photographs, and correspondence between Callas and the label (texts and translations will be included on CD-ROM); the individual recordings will also be made available at a later date.
If you want to hear these remasterings in their full glory - in full 24-bit/96kHz sound - you'll also be able to buy those here at Presto Classical too, as our high-resolution offer is now just days away from launch.