Maria Callas used to say that everything her fans needed to know about her was in her Art, in her music. Indeed, her interpretation and scope were unique and her dedication and perfectionism popularized opera outside her universe. Among the specialists, there are those who prefer other sopranos, but only Maria broke barriers with her talent and her personality. Because of her, opera became pop. It also became the reference for the expression “Diva”, with another proportion: from divine, which it was, to difficult, which many also claimed to be.
Born in the United States to Greek immigrant parents, she returned to Greece at a young age, accompanying her mother and sister. He never had an easy relationship with his parents. Overweight and not fitting the beauty standards of the time, she didn’t seem to have been made for the dream that her mother envisioned for her sister, that of being an opera star. She proved everyone wrong.
Maria married young, to a much older man, Giovanni Battista Meneghini, who was a mixture of father, businessman, and lover, and who gave her every support so that she could dedicate herself to her Art with the dedication that she considered imperative. That is, total. When she appeared thin, slender, and beautiful, Maria Callas became a fashion reference, bringing charm to the roles (and artistic credibility) although many point to this transformation as one of the causes of the “end of her voice” over time.
In fact, while on stage she was Callas, outside, and for a few, Maria. As she approached 40, with worldwide success and fewer career challenges, she allowed herself to fall in love. In times of a more chaste society, she betrayed her husband and left him for a married man, Aristotle Onassis. In current times it is difficult to explain Maria’s boldness in assuming the role of lover, without owing anything to anyone or caring about society. Soon everyone who followed the love story cheered for them.
However, after all the public humiliation – and in particular, having an abortion at the request of her lover – she was exchanged for another woman, Jacqueline Kennedy, whom Ari married (something Maria waited many years without pressing him). The blow was hard because here, yes, Callas was rusty, untrained, and uninspired to resume lyrical singing. Tried, but failed. She worked as an actress and as a teacher, but heartbreak was cruel to her heart and health.
She later had an affair with her friend and stage partner, Giuseppe di Stefano, but her true love was still Aristotle, with whom she reconciled (as a friend) a few months before his death. It is unknown if they would marry as he died before making an official separation from Jackie. Maria was not at his funeral, but “died spiritually” with him in 1975. The next two years were practically one of seclusion and depression. When she passed away, in 1977, the myth emerged that it was for love. Her ashes were scattered in the Aegean Sea, so that, some claim, they made their way to Aristotle’s tomb on the Isle of Scorpio.
The film Maria, by Pablo Larraín, with Angelina Jolie, will cover the last days of Callas’ life in Paris, where friends claim she spent hours thinking and crying about the past.
There is a lot of complexity in Maria Callas‘ biography. But your music? It’s straightforward. Gradually we will talk about their roles separately. For beginners, it’s worth a guide to the main basic arias to, as she warned, get to know her.
Casta Diva, from Norma
There are several recordings of Maria Callas in the lead role, one of her favorites. Casta Diva with her is a guaranteed connection to another dimension. Maria Callas played Norma 89 times, being her most repeated role in her entire career, rivaling, of course, Tosca.
Ritorna vincitor!, from Aida
In the 1951 recording in the lead role, Maria reaches the impossible note of E Flat that is legendary. The most frequent is from 1955 when her performance is considered perfect.
Il dolce suono, from Lucia di Lammermoor
It is one of his most acclaimed roles, especially obviously that of the “mad scene”. The 1953 recording features her alongside her most famous stage partners, Giuseppe di Stefano and Tito Gobbi.
Vissi D’Arte, from Tosca
Of all the roles, Floria Tosca’s is perhaps “The” role of Callas, especially the aria Vissi D’Arte (I lived on Art) whose lyrics and lamentation are like the soprano’s personal confessions.
Sempre Libera, from La Traviata
Tragic characters were Callas’ favorites, of course, and the romantic Violetta Valéry obviously topped her ranking of most famous and iconic. Out, of 63 interpretations of the Verdi classic, six of the seven recordings were recorded live. She herself liked the 1958 recording best, in Portugal, but some choose the 1953 recording as their favorite.
Ebben? Ne andro lontana, from La Wally
The opera La Wally is most popular because it is one of the operas Maria Callas loved. One of the best-known versions of the Ebben ? Ne andro lontana is from 1954, at the height of her vocal power. Always exciting.
Oh! non credea mirarti, from La sonnambula
Oh! non credea mirarti is part of the opera La Sonnambulla and gained popularity when it was sung by Maria Callas in 1955. The play Master Class uses it on its soundtrack to the moment when Maria regrets the end of her romance with Onassis, and cries for never having been mother. It has all the appearance of joining Maria‘s soundtrack.