I bought a tape of Callas's 'hits' in Woolies for 50p in 1982. I put it on my Walkman and, after a swirling crescendo of harps and violins, and a pause, this incredible voice comes in singing Ecco, respira appena, which means 'Look, I'm barely breathing'. It moved me so much I just had to get the translation, and I was amazed to find out the philosophy behind the lyric was exactly my approach to song. It goes: Look, I'm barely breathing, I am the humble servant of the creative genius, / He gives me the word, I pass it on to the people's hearts, / I am only the accent on his verse, the echo of the human drama, / Fragile instrument he plays on with his hand, / Mild, joyous, atrocious, I am called faithfulness, / My voice is a breath which will die on the morrow. It's the part in the opera where the actress declares she has only two days to live, and it sums up her modesty. Callas has quite a shrill voice. She's not as gentle as others, but she's got the passion. She builds up and up until the word 'atrocious' which she screams; then she calms you with the next few words. I love it; here's a person pushing her physical being to the limit. I nearly tried to join the Guildhall's opera course, but the audition clashed - I went on tour with the Waterboys instead.
Maria Callas Sings Operatic Arias (EMI) is deleted