Maria Callas


Maria Callas has not stopped enchanting us after her death, not only because she was unquestionably the greatest Diva of opera in the 20th Century but also because both her life and death were full of Machiavellian scandals and mysteries. The second daughter of a couple of Greek immigrants, Maria was raised by an extremely ambitious mother who took her away from her home, New York City, and her beloved father and brought her to Greece right before World War II. Since then, we are aware of the difficulties, love affairs, and triumphs that Maria Callas faced in her professional and personal life. We know of the men who left their mark on the prima donna assoluta forever -Luchino Visconti, the ingenious homosexual director she extremely loved, Giovanni Batista Meneghini, her thirty years older husband who used her as an instrument to satisfy his own ambitions, and Aristotle Onassis who ended their historical romance rejecting her for John Kennedy’s widow, Jackie. Throughout her whole life, Callas gave a permanent battle with her weight -which she finally won, transforming herself to the glamorous diva who changed opera forever, to ‘La Divina’ whose recordings remain legendary, and whose life is tabloid material even today. Callas suffered from myopia that left her almost blind when she was on stage, yet she reached her target to become known as the ‘absolute prima donna’ of the whole world both for her compelling music skills and for her moving dramatic talent. Norma and Tosca will remain in history having been marked forever by the amazing performance of the absolute diva of opera. Callas was ‘’the Bible of opera’’ for Leonard Bernstein and ‘’the definition of the diva as an artist’’ for Opera Information. For the rest of the world, she was the greatest artist of all times. She passed her last years isolated in Paris, where she died in her flat at 36 Avenue Georges Mandel.


On the 2nd of December of 1923 she was born in Manhattan, New York City as Anna Maria Sophia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos.
In 1937 her parents break up and her mother, together with Maria and her sister, returns to Athens.
At the summer of the same year, Maria begins her studies in the National Conservatoire.
In 1939 she begins to study at the Athens Conservatoire, with Elvira de Hidalgo as her teacher.
Franz von Suppé
On August 27, 1942, she receives her first leading role as Tosca in the opera by Puccini.
On September 14, 1945, she leaves Greece to participate in operas in the USA, and also to restore her ties with her father.
In December 1945 she rejects Edward Johnson’s, who was the chairman of the Metropolitan Opera of New York City as in her opinion her body type did not match the role of Madame Butterfly, whom moreover she did not want to perform in English as it was proposed to her.
Die Walküre
On December 7, 1951, she stars in her official premiere in La Scala of Milan with the piece I vespri siciliani by Verdi.
During the whole decade her career skyrockets, with appearances in the greatest stages of the world, such as the Royal Opera of London, the Metropolitan Opera of New York City, and the Opera of Paris.
On August 5, 1957, she performs at the Athens Festival causing political debate mainly concerning her pay.
At the same year Callas meets Aristotle Onassis at a party, and they live a passionate romance.
On January 2, 1958, the well-publicized event of her leaving the Opera of Rome took place, as at the first act of Norma by Bellini she quit the stage of La Scala, claiming that she was ill. That caused strong reactions and rumours about her short-tempered character -at that moment, the Italians hated her.
In 1959 she quits Meneghini, with whom she remained legally married up until 1966, when she also quit her American citizenship.
On August 24, 1960, she performs Norma for the first time in Epidaurus, and during her performance of Casta Diva two white pigeons are released, causing enthusiasm to the audience.
On August 6, 1961, she returns to Epidaurus in the opera Medee by Cherubini, and she receives the warmest applause of 17,000 viewers.
In the summer of 1964, Callas sang for the last time in Greece at the Folklore Festival of Lefkas, in which she was invited during her vacation in the neighbouring private island of Skorpios with Aristotle Onassis.
In 1965 personal, sentimental, and health reasons (the later having to do with her constant gains and losses of weight) cause irreparable problems to her voice, resulting in her last appearance on the stage of the Covent Garden with Zeffirelli’s Tosca. Since then, she never sang in public again for the following eight years.
In 1968 Aristotle Onassis quits her to marry Jackie Kennedy.
In 1969 she is introduced to the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, with whom she becomes friends, and they collaborate in filming Euripides’s Medea, a film that fails commercially.
Together with her colleague Giuseppe Di Stefano they begin a global goodbye tour in 1973, a tour that cannot be compared to her former glorious moments.
On December 11, 1974, she appears for the last time in public in Sapporo, Japan.
In 1975, the death of Aristotle Onassis on March 15, as well as the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini on November 2 emotionally strike the already depressed Callas, who is isolated in her flat in Paris. Her only company are her housekeeper and close friend Bruna Lupoli and her butler Feruccio Mezzadri.
On September 16, 1977, Maria Callas dies at the age of 53, after a heart attack that strikes her in Paris, and her last will is that her body gets cremated and her ashes are spread at the Aegean Sea.
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