Here are two of Rossini's "secular" cantatas: "The Lament of Harmony on the Death of Orpheus" for tenor, male chorus, and orchestra, written when he was a 16-year-old conservatory student, and the far more substantial "Wedding of Thetis and Peleus," one of many such pieces he composed for special occasions, commissioned for the marriage of an Italian princess to a French prince. Both consist of primarily short, separate, contrasting numbers, most of which would be perfectly at home in the opera house.
Callas first sang at Milan’s legendary La Scala for the opening of the 1951–1952 season (in Verdi’s I vespri siciliani) and she became closely identified with the theatre, notably in productions directed by Luchino Visconti and his protégé Franco Zeffirelli. Spontini’s La vestale was staged for her there in 1954, Bellini’s La sonnambula in 1955, and her final La Scala performances came in 1962 with Cherubini’s Medea. ‘This wonderful record gives us … Callas at her most spell-binding and enthralling,’ wrote Gramophone. ‘Callas at La Scala … shows the diva at her most exciting and most beautiful.’