I may love a diet of goth-punk, but I also love my opera. Yes, opera. Bite me.
When the world ponders who are the greatest singers of the modern era (an era which I choose to define as the period between the first performance of Sibelius's Lemminkäinen Suite and the release of Oops, I Did It Again by Britney Spears) two names continually surface: Pavarotti, and Maria Callas, and for good reason. Both had voices that can rip a human in two.
There have been many great opera singers over the time, but these two stood out because they could do something the others could not... they could bring emotion into the arias. See, it's one thing to hit a note, but it's a whole other thing to hit the note and bring agony / joy / longing / pathos or whatever into it as well as be technically perfect. In fact, it is often said of Maria Callas that she wasn't techically perfect at all - there were other singers that hit the notes more powerfully or perfectly - but she could bring such a range of emotion to the works that her vocal limitations became irrelevant. To a purist, she is flawed, but to the rest of us, like, 99.9999% of the world who are not operatic purists, she's da shiz, because we can identify with her voice.
She had an interesting life. Her mum made her sing to German occupiers in Athens (which caused problems in post-war Greece), she got married young and fat, fame hit her before she was ready, she had eating and drug problems, had a dismal affair with Aristotle Onassis (he dumped her for Jacqui Kennedy) and she died in New York, mostly washed up, as a result of prescription drug abuse. Her last words were, "I need a coffee."
I met her sister when I lived in Athens. I had read her book about her famous sister and in it she mentioned she went to the same place for breakfast every morning, so I went there and had a quick chat. She must've been 80 or so when I met her, but looking into her eyes you could see some of her sister's beauty. Or rather, spunk. Callas was sex, and sass, and spunk... not so much 'beauty.
But more than anything, she had the voice. Oh god, that voice. The Gods made Pandora and failed, but their next experiment, Callas, was a success. They built her to sing one song.
Down below is Callas singing 'One Fine Day' from Madame Butterfly (sorry, a fan put it together, there's no real footage). It is, I think, the greatest operatic combination in history - Callas singing this song, as if she was born just to sing it. It's a fine song anyway, but nobody before or after Callas can do it justice.
The song is sung by the character Butterfly. See, her lover, a sailor, has left her and he promised to come back. Here, she sings that 'one fine day' she'll see his ship and he'll come back to her. Seems basic enough, but ay, here's the rub: When it's sung by anyone else, it is what it is. A song about a woman waiting for her lover to come back. But when Callas sings it, it turns on its head, because she brings the agony, and when we hear her sing it we know that Butterfly knows he's never coming back.
When she hits that big note at the end, I die a little every time. Along with that snare stab that opens 'Like A Rolling Stone', her tragic wail near the end is one of those split-second musical moments that can inspire a world.