Maria Callas, originally Anna Maria Cecilia Sophia Kalogeropoulou (Greek: Άννα Μαρία Καικιλία Σοφία Καλογεροπούλου) was a Greek soprano, in possession of the US nationality and naturalized Italian until 1966, when she renounced both to obtain the Greek one. from Greek parents, Maria Callas studied in Athens from 1939 to 1945, embarking on an international career from the late forties to the sixties.
Endowed with a particular voice, which combined a unique timbre to volume, extension and remarkable agility, Callas contributed to the rediscovery of the Italian repertoire of the first half of the nineteenth century (the so-called "belcanto renaissance"), in particular Vincenzo Bellini and Gaetano Donizetti, of which he was able to give a personal reading, in a tragic and dramatic key, as well as purely lyrical-elegiac. She is also responsible for the rediscovery of the nineteenth-century vocality called "song of skill", but with her in a modern era that also included the genre Verista was coined by Teodoro Celli the term of dramatic soprano of agility for the restoration of the singing technique of first-nineteenth-century origin applied to all the repertoires.
Among his battle horses were Bellini (Norma, Puritani, Sonnambula), Donizetti (Lucia di Lammermoor), Verdi (Macbeth, Traviata, Trovatore, Aida), Ponchielli (La Gioconda), Puccini (Tosca, Turandot).
He also dedicated himself successfully to the rediscovery of titles out of repertoire due to the lack of suitable sopranili interpreters, such as Armida and Il Turco in Italy by Rossini, The Pirate of Bellini, Anna Bolena by Donizetti, Alceste and Ifigenia in Tauride by Gluck, La Vestal of Gaspare Spontini and Macbeth of Verdi, albeit without that philological rigor for the integral or original scores, ie accepting the cuts and the many traditional adaptations imposed by the directors of the time.
Inextricably linked to his name are Norma by Vincenzo Bellini and Medea by Luigi Cherubini, roles he gave a masterly interpretation, both vocal and theatrical.
Her extraordinary talents of soprano and actress, the success, artistic and media, the myth built around her, have earned her the name of Divina.
The name of the registry office is Sophia Cecilia Kalos, while the full name is Anna Maria Cecilia Sophia Kalogeropoulou (in Greek: Άννα Μαρία Καικιλία Σοφία Καλογεροπούλου). The original surname of the father, Kalogeropoulos (Καλογερόπουλος) - Καλογεροπούλου is the genitive - it was simplified by them first in Kalos when he arrived in the USA, after which he became Callas. Regarding the date of birth, there were several uncertainties between 2, 3 and 4 December, probably due to a mother's lapsus memoriae. The register of the registry shows the 3, the passport the 2, while both the mother and she agreed on the 4, date of which Callas was not safe but that preferred because the day of Santa Barbara, pugnacious and combative saint who felt congenial to himself. It is now established that the exact date was December 2nd. In his book, the former wife of Giuseppe Di Stefano tells of a dinner organized on December 2, 1972 in honor of Callas to celebrate the singer's birthday.
The parents, George Kalogeropoulos and Evangelia Dimitriadou, met at the university where they both studied pharmacy. George Kalogeropoulos was originally from the Peloponnese and was of modest extraction. Evangelia Dimitriadou instead came from a fairly wealthy family: her parents, of Greek ancestry, had moved from Istanbul to Stylis, and then settled in Athens. In the Greek society of the time, the fact that the Dimitriadis were a family of military traditions was of some importance. The marriage was in short, at least in part, badly assorted, and would have been a source of frustration especially for Evangelia Dimitriadou. They married in 1916, settling in Meligala. In June 1917 the eldest daughter was born, Yakinthy (later called "Jackie"). In 1920 the only son was born, Vasili, who died in 1923, the victim of a typhus epidemic. This loss left deep traces especially in the mother and was the basis of the choice to move to the United States of America, where the spouses landed on August 2, 1923, moving to a Long Island apartment. George Kalogeropoulos found work in the pharmaceutical sector of a chemical company [without source].
Maria, conceived in Greece, was born at the Flower Hospital of New York on December 2, 1923. Her father had already changed his surname from Kalogeropoulos in Callas to the registry office (but on the Italian identity card at the time of his marriage in Verona appears "Kalòs "). It is said that the mother, who wanted a male (who would have baptized Vasili, like the dead brother), refused to see her for four days and hesitated for a long time before finding a name for her. The girl, exceptionally robust, weighed more than six kilos at birth, always according to the fanciful reminiscences of her mother, collected by US journalists quite unscrupulous.
The girl was baptized at the age of three, in 1926, at the Greek Orthodox Church in New York. At this age, according to Evangelia's stories, he seems to have already started his musical career: at the age of three he listens to opera arias thanks to his father and mother's piano, and at four he starts putting together the first melodies on the piano. Also in the book My daughter Maria Callas, Evangelia Dimitriadou claims that, at the age of four, little Maria, singing unaware with the windows open, had even forced the motorists to stop and listen to her enchanted, blocking the traffic.
In 1928, escaped the mother's control, the little Maria tried to reach her sister Yakinthy, glimpsed across the street, running across it: a car hit her in full, dragging her under the wheels for many meters before she managed to stop. Immediately transported to the hospital of St. Elizabeth, after 22 days he left the coma. This was a fact to which both Mary and Evangelia Dimitriadou brought much importance. Maria confessed to Eugenio Gara that during the long unconsciousness strange music buzzed in her ears. The mother argued that after the incident Mary developed a completely different character from before and she traced the "bad character", which will be famous in the world, shaky, obstinate and rebellious, just to this circumstance.
In 1929 his father opened a pharmacy in Manhattan. The family lived with a certain decorum, feeling limited to the collapse of Wall Street, thanks above all to its father's initiative. Maria Callas followed a brilliant scholastic career and, in parallel, from 1931 took singing lessons (under the guidance of an unknown "Miss Sandrina", who was the architect of her first vocal setting) and piano. Regarding this first training, despite his notations about it being very laconic, Maria was able to highlight the fact that already at this very early stage something led her to that sort of "syncretism" between national schools of which her voice will be the result: Miss Sandrina in fact taught her both the Italian method and the French one (which consisted in passing the voice from the nose, forcing the organ in a disastrous way). For his own account (as the interested one will remember later), he had already made the habit of alternating very different arias, for example the Habanera dal Carmen by Georges Bizet and Io son Titania, by Mignon by Ambroise Thomas: an aria of mezzo-soprano and one of coloring soprano.
A strong constitution, very soon developed an important glandular dysfunction, which will lead to an abnormal weight growth, from which it will not completely free before 1953. In 1937 the parents separated and the mother, returned to Greece, summarized the surname Kalogeropoulos.
Once in Greece, Maria was admitted to the Athens Conservatory where she graduated in singing, piano and languages, studying with the Italian soprano Maria Trivella, perhaps the first discoverer of an acute register very easy, but still without those serious notes that would become typical of its particular vocal range. The 1937 hearing called for "Habanera" from Carmen and "La Paloma". On April 11, 1938, he participated in an essay with other students, and sang arias from The Weber Hunter, The Queen of Sheba of Gounod, and the love duet from Madame Butterfly. After other small concerts and auditions, on April 2, 1939, a primadonna role arrived: Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, winning the prize that the conservatory was giving away. Thus began the first phase of a precocious career that will earn her the nickname of "Divina".
In 1939 he continued to sing especially arias and duets of the Italian lyrical-pushed repertoire (Aida, Un ballo in maschera, Cavalleria rusticana), until the audition in front of Elvira de Hidalgo, the famous color soprano who was stuck in Greece for private reasons , in September, with "Mare, grande mar", from the Weber Oberon. De Hidalgo's guide immediately determined a turning point towards another repertoire, with the study of arias and duets by Norma and Il trovatore, but in 1940 the other complete role was lyric-dramatic, with Suor Angelica di Puccini, and so on: since that time, Maria Callas always inserted virtuosic arias in her programs ("Bel raggio lusinghier", from Rossini's Semiramide, already appears in a 1942 program) to keep the voice "light", second, it seems, the precepts of the teacher.
Despite the outbreak of war, it will be a succession of growing interpretations, prepared in precarious conditions but with great care and precision for the Greek-German musical environment: the scene music of The Merchant of Venice at the Royal Theater of Athens, was Beatrice in Boccaccio by Franz von Suppé at the Palais Cinéma; from 1941 until 1945 he will play Floria Tosca in the shooting in Hellenki Ethnikon Skini in Athens by Tosca by Giacomo Puccini, Cavalleria rusticana, Fidelio, Der Bettelstudent (The student prince of Millöcker), his only interpretation (Smaragda, 1943 and 1944) of a contemporary work, O protomastoras (The master builder, by Manolis Kalomiris, from a drama by Nikos Kazantzakis) and Tiefland by Eugen d'Albert. The most international moment, far from negligible for his technical and dramatic preparation, was decidedly Beethoven's Fidelio, studied with Irma Kolassi, of whom Maria had already sung the main aria, the long and famous "Abscheulicher", in at least two concerts of the previous year.
The Arena of Herodes Atticus, like the other major bodies in Athens, were currently in the hands of the Nazi occupier. Maria, graduated in Italian, Spanish and French, did not know German, and studied it specifically with Greek teachers, carefully avoiding contact with the occupying Germans. Thanks to his reading, the twelve summer performances of Beethoven's drama of freedom acquired, in an atmosphere of spasmodic tension, in the beautiful open-air theater, an enormous allusive value to the conditions of the then Greece, while not sparing them from the accusations of collaborationism for having sung under a German direction. It is also known that Callas, his mother and sister hid some British soldiers at home; a circumstance which does not lack a touching episode, it seems real, which would see Callas improvising "Vissi d'arte", from Tosca, at the piano during a fascist inspection; the military, distracted by his song, would have desisted from more in-depth checks. Individually numerous and detailed the testimonies of acquaintances about the conduct of Callas in the difficult years of the war: committed to keeping itself and the family with the most disparate trades, adapted to sing in all the rooms, even of the lowest order (including the brothel of piazza Omonoia), carrying out heavy work in the meantime, and for a while serving as an interpreter at the British embassy.
Masters, colleagues and friends agree to the impression of having an uncommon talent as singer and performer, and if many memories can be emphasized by the myth created later, the testimony of Ray Morgan would suffice, a military his occasional companion: he could get up from the table of a room to sing, and prey to a total metamorphosis, subjugate the audience with an almost fearful magnetism.
Musically, the numerous concerts held in Thessaloniki in 1945 are very interesting, where in addition to the traditional arias and the Greek folk songs alternated some songs, at the time of rare listening, of what will be its most typical repertoire of dramatic-coloring. An unverifiable anecdote wants Callas to sing alone the Otello-Desdemona duet, by Rossini's Otello, alternating in both the soprano and the tenor.
After liberation, political change had to make Callas foresee a very dark future. On August 3, 1945 he held his last concert in Athens, and in September 7 performances of Karl Millocker's Der Bettelstudent, concluding an intense seven years of which there are no sound recordings. With 7 main roles in 57 live performances, a secondary role, chorus parts, at least 7 recitals, 14 concerts and a dozen Conservatory exams, as well as a program broadcast live by Radio Athens, on September 14, 1945 for the United States to stay a while with his father and start a new career there, despite the total disapproval of the teacher, who showed her Italy as the only possible musical homeland.
At the beginning his entrance to La Scala was very tiring. Without any special protection (Serafin was not much loved), without a necessary insertion in the artistic tour of the post-war recovery, his vocal talents, although recognized, were of no interest to anyone. His only chance, up until now, had been Aida in 1950 replacing Renata Tebaldi, received with perplexity because of the stage performance and the "strange" and metallic vocal timbre. It should be noted a certain preconceived hostility of criticism, especially by Teodoro Celli, who in a very short time will become one of his greatest and most conscious admirers. Antonio Ghiringhelli, artistic director Victor de Sabata, was then superintendent of the theater. Colleagues like Del Monaco and Giuseppe Di Stefano, with her involved in the triumphal South American tours of La Scala, managed to break through. The tensions with Antonio Ghiringhelli, who had planned the period of his superintendency on the so-called "star system", which should have been as diamond points Renata Tebaldi, Del Monaco, Simionato and Ettore Bastianini (all singers under contract with Decca Records London, the direct rival of the EMI), would never cease, although the superintendent soon understood that Maria Callas could attract a lot of public and much press. Florence, thanks to the presence of Francesco Siciliani, artistic director of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, was decisive for Callas' Italian career. Callas managed to make his permanence at La Scala a "golden period" parallel to that of Toscanini, but he broke the artificial balance created by the superintendent, placing himself (though not by the will of their colleagues) at the head of the main quartet, doubling moreover, in two different star castes (also for reasons of record exclusivity), collaborating with Del Monaco, Di Stefano, Simionato (her great friend), Barbieri, Bastianini and with Tito Gobbi. Likewise, the support guaranteed by Wally Toscanini sounded like a sort of "blessing" from overseas by Toscanini. Tebaldi, feeling betrayed, especially after Luigi Cherubini's Medea, which Callas presented at La Scala in 1953 three days after the inaugural evening, with La Wally sung by Tebaldi herself, preferred to recreate a congenial balance in the USA, which did not prevent the ignite a distance rivalry, also created and fomented by the press.
In 1951 he was Eurydice in the posthumous premiere in the Teatro della Pergola in Florence by Franz Joseph Haydn with Christoff conducted by Erich Kleiber. In the same year she was Violetta in the shooting in the Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo by La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, alternating with Renata Tebaldi, directed by Carlo Maria Giulini. Thus began the most dazzling part of his career: he inaugurated the opera season at the Scala in Milan in December 1951, where he triumphed in the role of La Duchessa Elena in I Vespri Siciliani with Christoff, continuing to reap great successes in scaligeri interpreting the greatest female figures of lyric: from Norma in the first performance with Nicola Rossi-Lemeni and Stignani and Costanza in the first performance of Il ratto dal serraglio in 1952, to Lady Macbeth in Macbeth with Ivo Vinco in the opening of the 1952/1953 season, La Gioconda in the first representation with Stignani and Di Stefano in the same season, Leonora in the first performance of Il trovatore in 1953, in Medea in the first performance of Medea with Barbieri directed by Leonard Bernstein in the 1953/1954 season and in 1961 with Simionato and Nicolai Ghiaurov, Lucia di Lammermoor with Di Stefano and Rolando Panerai directed by Herbert von Karajan, Alceste with Panerai directed by Carlo Maria Giulini and Elisabetta di Valois in Don Carlo with Rossi Lemeni and Stignani in 1954, Giulia in La Vestale with Franco Corelli in the opening of the 1954/1955 season, Maddalena di Coigny in Andrea Chenièr with Monaco, Amina in La sonnambula directed by Leonard Bernstein, Donna Fiorilla in Il turco in Italy with Rossi Lemeni and Violetta Valery in La traviata with Di Stefano and Bastianini directed by Giulini in 1955. It is still Norma in the opening of the 1955/1956 season with Monaco and the Simionato, Rosina The barber of Seville with Luigi Alva, Gobbi and Rossi Lemeni and Fedora with Corelli in 1956 and Anna Bolena with Rossi Lemeni and the Simionato, Iphigenia in Iphigenia in Tauris with Cossotto in 1957. She is Amelia in Un ballo in maschera with Di Stefano, Bastianini and Simionato for the opening of the 1957/1958 season, Imogene in Il pirata with Bastianini and Corelli in 1958, Paolina in Poliuto with Bastianini and Corelli in the opening of the 1960/1961 season.
It is Elvira Valton in 1952 in the filming of I puritani by Vincenzo Bellini in the Teatro Comunale di Firenze with Rossi-Lemeni directed by Serafin and in the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma with Giacomo Lauri Volpi and in the first performance in the Palacio de las Bellas Artes of Mexico with Di Stefano. He returned to the Arena in 1952 (presenting himself with the name of Maria Meneghini Callas), singing in La traviata and La Gioconda (1952), Il trovatore and Aida, and in Mefistofele in 1954. Lucia is filming in the Palacio de las Bellas Artes of Mexico City of "Lucia di Lammermoor" by Gaetano Donizetti with Di Stefano in 1952 and in the Teatro Comunale di Firenze with Giacomo Lauri-Volpi / Di Stefano and Bastianini in 1953. It is Armida in the first performance in the Teatro Comunale di Firenze of Armida di Gioachino Rossini directed by Serafin always in 1952.
Thus the path of the discography was opened: after the Cetra, which had a memorable Mona Lisa (1952) and a Traviata (1953), it was the EMI-Voce del Padrone who offered her a contract, thanks to the artistic director Walter Legge, husband of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, her great admirer. Legge has left written that just as he went to hear it for the first time at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, his wife heard it on the radio, and claimed that he had never heard such an amazing coloring. It is also true that the two spouses gave much advice to the young Callas, in particular on the vice of aspiring agility, which Callas made in a very short time; yet their competence could also create complexities, as when he read ironically on the oscillating notes of La forza del destino. In any case, Maria began to record a very nutritious series of works, including Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti, Norma, Tosca, Manon Lescaut, La sonnambula; the record company was not distinguished by courage and foresight, preferring to make them record works well known to the general public and leaving out some rediscoveries that were revalued only thanks to the pirated recordings: Medea, Armida, Sicilian vespers, Anna Bolena, The pirate, Alceste. The only exception was Il Turco in Italia by Gioachino Rossini, engraved in 1954, very rare at that time and which Maria Callas had already rediscovered in Rome in 1950, thanks to the initiative of an artistic-musical association, L'Anfiparnaso, of which he was Luchino Visconti also leaves. In the meantime he performed on tour in prestigious theaters, such as the Civic Opera in Chicago, the Metropolitan in New York, the Covent Garden in London.
In 1952 he made his debut at the Royal Opera House in London in the role of Norma with Stignani and Joan Sutherland. At Covent Garden is Aida with Simionato and Sutherland and Leonora in Il trovatore with Simionato in 1953.
In 1953 he faced for the first time, at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Medea by Luigi Cherubini, filmed a few months later at La Scala. No resumption of this work more adherent to the original cherubiniano aroused as much impression. Also in the same year she was Lucia in "Lucia di Lammermoor" by Gaetano Donizetti in Rome, in 1954 in Venice with Bastianini and in Bergamo with Ferruccio Tagliavini and in 1955 in the RIAS in West Berlin with Di Stefano and Panerai conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Still in 1953 Maria Meneghini Callas is Violetta Valery in La traviata at the Fenice Theater and Norma with Corelli and Christoff at the Teatro Verdi in Trieste.
At the Lyric Opera in Chicago is Norma with Simionato, Violetta in La traviata with Gobbi and Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor with Di Stefano in 1954 and Elvira in I puritani with Stefano, Bastianini, Rossi-Lemeni, Leonora in Il trovatore with Stignani, Björling, Bastianini and Cio-cio-san in Butterfly with Stefano in 1955.
It is Medea in "Medea" by Cherubini in La Fenice Theater in 1954 and in the first performance in the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome with Barbieri and Christoff in 1955.
In 1956 he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in the role of Norma with Del Monaco, the Barbieri and Siepi. Immediately afterwards at the Met is Tosca and is called to The Ed Sullivan Show with the duet with Scarpia from the second act of the opera Pucciniana.
It is Lucia in the filming of "Lucia di Lammermoor" by Gaetano Donizetti in the San Carlo Theater in Naples with Panerai, in the Vienna State Opera with Di Stefano conducted by Herbert von Karajan, in the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in 1956 and in the radio in RAI Auditorium of the Foro Italico di Roma directed by Serafin in 1957.
At the Teatro alla Scala in Milan is Anna in the revival of "Anna Bolena" by Gaetano Donizetti with the Simionato, Rossi-Lemeni and Siepi and Amina in the resumption of "La sonnambula" by Vincenzo Bellini in 1957 also carried in the Verona travel to Florence with Fiorenza Cossotto.
The "transformation" of Callas
It is known that between 1952 and 1954 the singer lost 36 pounds of weight: Callas also compiled a calendar, with seven works interpreted in those years, placing next to the figure of weight loss for each: Gioconda alla Scala 1952 (92 kg ), Aida at the Arena of Verona (87), Norma of Trieste of 1953 (80), Medea alla Scala of December 1953 (78), Lucia of the following January (75), then Alceste (65) and Don Carlo (64) in the same season. But subsequently, it fell again, and in the two-year period 1955-1957 it came to touch even the 54 kg. Many assumptions have been made about the methods used, up to the legend of a solitary worm egg ingested voluntarily. In fact, a diet based on meat and vegetables changed the metabolism, and a lot of movement and overwork did the rest; it must also be said that it did not start from an obese figure, but simply from a strong overweight distributed over a height of 172 cm.
More than the diet, however, it was the model taken by Callas that created the impression: the actress Audrey Hepburn, seen in Roman holidays, was the farthest from the body and the strongly marked features of the Greek one could imagine. Fringe, chignon, make-up, expression, floral blouses, scarves, wide skirts and a very tight waist: the imitation was broken. The figure of Mary changed so drastically as to make her "another woman", as Carlo Maria Giulini said, who did not respond to her greeting when she met her at La Scala in 1954, despite having already worked with her in past years.
There was talk of "transformation of Callas", but very important were the consequences on the stage art, which Mary brought to unimaginable heights: free and fluid in the movements, in sufficiently good health conditions, reconceived his creations in a choreographic sense, imposing a model of strongly expressionistic acting, with nervous gestures. The critical friend Andre Tubeuf claimed that, unlike other very good singers who sang on one side and recited on the other, in her singing and acting they were something absolutely integrated, difficult to describe.
His way of singing, already strong with a unique ability to phrasing, improved and was further enriched in terms of softness, legato and color, nuances, and reached remarkable levels; with lightened hair and a dresser line (it was 1.71 m high) he sang Norma, La traviata and Lucia di Lammermoor in Chicago in November 1954: it was the first time he returned home after 1947, and the Americans, from the public to the critics, they knelt in front of a singer different from all the others. In December 1954, in Milan, he inaugurated the opera season with La Vestale, and then in New York in 1956 where he sang Norma, Tosca and again Lucia di Lammermoor. But it was in La Traviata that his stage-vocal figure reached its highest point: still in possession of its means, Maria gave Violetta not only the physique and the bewildering expressions of Hepburn, but also the tragic poses of the Duse and the expressions of the Garbo. But even the worldly frenzy began to grow. For his everyday image he relied on the Italian designer Biki, with whom he began a collaboration that went beyond the simple supply of clothes, and that contributed to the creation of a sophisticated and elegant image, perfectly set in the living rooms Milanese of the fifties. The lounges and restaurants became one with the theater, but a cinematic star-system, very typical of those years, was about to give it a fatal trap. It is true that almost all his scaligere evenings, starting from the memorable exhumation of Macbeth (1952), were partly opposed: to the applause you could mix whistles and angry dissent, in particular to emphasize a too much performed virtuosity, or some strongly oscillating notes , or some colors too harsh and stifled (in the Macbeth sleepwalking scene, at the end of which it is still possible to hear the whistles of a part of the audience). More closely linked to factors of Tebaldian fanaticism, instead, seems the episode of radishes, launched together with the bunches of flowers at the end of a film by Traviata, which she, short-sighted, picked up without seeing the first thing they were, and then showed the audience among the general triumph.
However, the majority of the Scala audience was definitely always with her, and some ovations, like at the end of the "D'amor sull'ali rosee" of the Trovatore, of Lucia's madness scene, and above all of "Al dolce guidami castel natio" of the Anna Bolena, interrupted by the shouts of "Divina!" even a few notes from the end, they still understand today why for a long time, after his death, there was talk of "vedovi-Callas". Not to mention the triumph reserved out of the theater after the resumption of Anna Bolena in 1958 in the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, with the Simionato, Siepi / Rossi-Lemeni, after the frost in the room due to the echoes of the scandal of Rome, both after the last performance of the Pirate, a few months later, when it was clear that the superintendence had barred the doors for future collaborations. The only artistic false step of the happy period of Scaligero was Il barbiere di Siviglia (February / March 1956); his Rosina did not convince completely, either because of the unusual recovery of some figurations of the original contraltine weaving (at the time, Rosina was interpreted almost exclusively by light sopranos), and above all because of the poor congeniality of the character  . But when he became a "rotogravure" character in all respects, his minimal defaillance was amplified, and the fame of the public figure became a frightening double-edged sword.
On September 3, 1957, at a reception in Venice at the Danieli Hotel organized in his honor by Elsa Maxwell, for which he renounced singing an additional recital of La sonnambula at the Edinburgh Festival despite the Scala's requests, he met Aristotle for the first time Onassis. For that time, the greek was just one of the many billionaires with whom the new international social life brought her into contact, thanks to the ambiguous and adoring friendship of Elsa Maxwell, also present at the party.
In December 1958 the Callas made its triumphant debut in the concert the Grande Notte dell'Opera in Paris, broadcast in Eurovision in 12 countries, at the Opéra Garnier with the Orchestra and Choir of the Opéra national de Paris in the presence of the President of the French Republic René Coty and Onassis went to pay homage to the compatriot in her dressing room. The second part was dedicated to the second act of Tosca together with Gobbi.
The following year, probably impressed by the Gala in honor of the Callas organized by the Paris Opera House, Onassis organized a dinner in his honor at the Dorchester Hotel in London, on the occasion of the premiere of Medea with Cossotto at Covent Garden (June 1959 ). If the message had never been clear, Onassis even took pictures while, at the time of the greetings, he tried to keep Callas, now in furs, taken away by her husband. A month later, the invitation to spend the summer holidays on the Christina yacht for a cruise together with Winston Churchill and his wife and other personalities of the international Gotha caught a very tired Callas for a grueling concert tour, with the voice beginning to show signs of subsidence and in a complex psychological state, where the ever stronger dependence from worldliness joined the desire to end the career. After two weeks, on the return to Monte Carlo of the yacht, Maria Callas had decided to be madly in love with the Greek and to leave Meneghini forever. Strangely enough, the fact was too clamorous to be noticed, and it took Meneghini's provocation, exasperated by those who, in the torrid August, sought his wife for various professional and personal reasons, to make the news explode in the press around the world. From that moment on, every public release of the singer became prey to journalists. According to some friends, the separation was in the air.
The vocal conditions, as early as 1957, showed signs of attrition. The summer of the same year recorded some episodes of fatigue: a concert at the Athens Herodic Theater, where she had not been since 1944, performed with tension and coldness, also because of the difficult emotional situation she had found in Athens due to the difficult relationships with mother and sister; a discontinuous series of performances by Sonnambula at the Edinburgh Festival, ended with a partial defection (a last recital not initially foreseen in the contract), in order not to cancel the social event organized in his honor in Venice by the American journalist Elsa Maxwell. In September, he was denied to the San Francisco Opera citing health reasons (later, the theater sued Callas, but he proved his innocence in court), while the rumor that he was recording for Ricordi unexpectedly spread the opera Medea by Luigi Cherubini.
The following year marked the beginning of a real critical phase: on January 2 in Rome, at a gala evening in the presence of high authorities such as the President of the Republic Giovanni Gronchi, during the first act of Norma, Maria Callas had new attacks of aphonia as in the two previous days, during the tests. La Callas, perhaps irritated by voices she would have heard coming from the gallery ("Back to Milan, cost me a mijone!") Did not continue the performance. Even when she was sobered by the now ubiquitous Elsa Maxwell, she did not want to lower her artistic level with a poor performance (the recording still today makes vocal conditions not perfectly started but maybe recoverable during the performance), creating an unprecedented scandal. Also in 1958 he sang in La Traviata, Lucia and Tosca at the Met and he resumed Traviata in Lisbon (with Alfredo Kraus) and later at the Royal Opera House in London.
The facts of Rome made her come into conflict with the superintendent of the Scala of Milan, Antonio Ghiringhelli, who after the triumphal performances of Il pirata with Franco Corelli, made her understand that she was in that theater "persona non grata". Despite a summing interpretation of the character of Imogene, even from the strictly vocal point of view, the superintendence forced her to gather the last true celebrations outside the theater, where a crowd of loyalists awaited her; on 6 November, due to positions deemed unacceptable by Rudolf Bing on the choices of the works to be performed (he refused to alternate between Traviata and Macbeth), he was obliged to cancel the contract with the Metropolitan, with the consequence of singing the play more vehemently of Medea, in Dallas.
In 1959, en route with La Scala and the Metropolitan, he began to clear the commitments, ending a series of concerts in the United States and Europe, including that of Hamburg, taken from television, one of the few video testimonies of the singer's career . In 1959, he staged only two works: Medea at the Convent Garden in London, followed in the fall by Lucia di Lammermoor and Medea in Dallas, under the guidance of Nicola Rescigno. The voice of Callas records signs of subsidence, especially in the most acute part, in Lucia's performances in Dallas.
In April 1960 Maria Callas, according to various sources, gave birth to a child, Homer, the result of the relationship with Onassis, who died a few moments later due to respiratory failure and buried in the Bruzzano cemetery, on the northern outskirts of Milan.
In August 1960, with a still conspicuous vocal line but affected by a strong vibrato and an acute weakened and shortened register, he sang Norma at Epidaurus, in September he recorded the opera again and on December 7th he inaugurated the opera season of La Scala not the protagonist of Paolina in Poliuto by Gaetano Donizetti. In 1961, in addition to a concert in London and a new staging of Medea at Epidaurus, he returned to La Scala with three performances by Medea, directed by Thomas Schippers. Apart from these performances of Medea, 1962 was a year dedicated to concerts, with a long tour in Europe, under the guidance of George Pretre. The singer's activities were increasingly supplanted by the mundane ones, always accompanied by Onassis who, however, did not share with Maria the passion for opera, although they sometimes coincided, like the short singing participation on the birthday of President Kennedy, 19 May 1962 , at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Between May and June 1963, Maria Callas held six concerts in Europe under the guidance of George Pretre.
In January 1964, under strong insistence by Franco Zeffirelli, he sang in a new production of Tosca at the Covent Garden in London, and later Norma in Paris. It was more successful in the tiring part of Tosca, less demanding vocally, being assisted by the great colleague and friend Tito Gobbi. In 1965 he decided to return to the scene and sang Tosca, in Paris, then later, with Corelli and Gobbi, at the Metropolitan in New York: the return was triumphant. Maria seemed to have regained the splendor of the previous years and this led her to take five performances of Norma in Paris, but both the voice and the body did not hold, so that on 29 May ended the scene of the act II exhausted and the last scene was canceled. Engaged with the Covent Garden in London for four performances of Tosca, she managed to hold only the gala one, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, July 5, 1965. This was the last time that Callas sang in a complete work.
After a short pause of serenity, even in private life the moment became critical: in 1966 Callas renounced the US nationality and the Italian nationality to return to the Greek nationality, hoping to close his career in beauty by sealing it with a new marriage. However, the shipowner Aristotle Onassis not only refused to regularize their union, but in 1968, perhaps following disagreements with his partner, and to support an economic plan, he decided to marry Jacqueline Kennedy, recently widowed by John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Following this humiliation, Maria Callas fell into depression. Without giving up, he chose (in 1966) a great opportunity to return to the limelight, no longer in the work but in the cinema, as the protagonist of the film Medea by Pier Paolo Pasolini, also with the hope of re-approaching the old lover, who immediately after the marriage had already begun to show up. The proposal came in reality from Renzo Rossellini, long time friend of the singer, who acted as guarantor against any risk of trivialization of the role (Pasolini Callas had seen Teorema, which had remained a little scandalized). The film, which reproposed in a barbaric and vaguely autobiographical (both for Pasolini and Callas) the story of the sorceress of Colchis coming into contact with the world of civilization, instead convinced Callas that you could try a new transposition of the myth, this time without music. Filmed in Cappadocia around Goreme (Turkey), Pisa, Aleppo and Grado, as well as in the Cinecittà studios, it did not get the same public success as the director's other works, but gave Maria a way to distract herself and enrich herself culturally and humanly, entering a world perhaps less intricate than that of the Opera, but also less depressing than the high society of Onassis, in which you could meet high-ranking intellectuals, like Pasolini, along with debutant actors, extras, technicians, producers, secretaries : just among the latter, Callas became friends with the Bulgarian Nadia Stancioff, brilliant daughter of diplomats and organizer of the Festival dei Due Mondi, who left in a book of memories a very precious diary (even if sometimes a little emphasized) of those cinematic months of Callas. Another type of diary is instead made up of a series of poems that Pasolini wrote at the time, and which reflect an artistic understanding and a deep friendship that could take on amorous tones, both from Callas, taken from the new hope of finding a husband , both by the poet, struck by a great and sincere personality ("I am fascinated by this violence of feelings", "is unable to feel a small, mean feeling", she will say in a television interview with Enzo Biagi) . Many of these poems then became part of the Trasumanar collection and organized. The second significant proposal after the withdrawal from the scenes were the courses of operatic refinement to be held in Philadelphia. The initiative, however, returned due to insufficient technical preparation of the students. Longer and more satisfying was the master-classes cycle held at the Juillard School in New York from October 1971 to March 1972. Of these master classes remains the recording of 46 hours of lessons (reduced to a significant choice even in a book edited by 'friend John Ardoin), interesting for those who want to understand the genesis of many interpretative ideas of the singer not only on their own roles but also on those of all the other voices of the great repertoire.
In October 1973 he began a world tour with Giuseppe Di Stefano, which ended on 11 November 1974 in Sapporo. It will be his last public performance. Following the incessant encouragement of his colleague, Maria tried to reorganize her own vocal arrangement, relearning to open her throat with the sole support of the diaphragm and focusing on the central register. Although he was not able to return to the ancient splendor, supported by a friend and supported by the encouraging love of the public, managed to recover enough to end the long tour in vocal conditions much better than how it had begun, as they are to testify the recordings of the 1974 concerts compared to the disappointing Hamburg debut of the previous year.
During the tour, the friendship with Di Stefano, compromised by the familiar problems of the tenor, cracked. According to what was published in the book Callas nemica mia, written by Maria Girolami, former wife of Di Stefano, the relationship between Maria Callas and the tenor was not only friendship and one of the reasons for the "withdrawal" of Callas was also this disappointment sentimental. Maria Callas retired to her Parisian apartment, avoiding contact with acquaintances and friends. In the meantime, two fundamental men of his existence were extinguished: his father and Tullio Serafin. But it was 1975 the most painful year both for the private sphere and for his artistic personality: in March Onassis died; on 2 November Pier Paolo Pasolini was killed (the circumstance of the incident was removed by Callas, who never expressed himself clearly on the sexual orientation of the director); on March 17, 1976 Luchino Visconti went out.
Maria Callas died on September 16, 1977, around 13.30. His physical condition had long been compromised. The medical report indicated a cardiac arrest as a cause of death, denying the rumors of suicide . The severe glandular dysfunction of youth and the drastic slimming were cited more frequently as causes of his death. In addition to various disorders, chronic insomnia was also added in recent years; Callas had begun to assume increasingly massive doses of Mandrax (metaqualone), which was obtained illegally (referring to the references to the "drugs" that dot the last pages of her diary). Some hypotheses attribute the death of the singer due to a dermatomyositis.
Less clear is the outline, and what was the role of the Greek pianist Vasso Devetzi ("lady of the company" established in her house in recent years), her sister, Yakinthy Callas, and her mother, Evangelia Dimitriadou. Executionary testamentary resulted at the end, thanks to a will deposited immediately after marriage at the law firm of the industrialist, Giovan Battista Meneghini, who, at his death, left in turn the conspicuous legacy of Callas to his housekeeper Emma Brutti.
The mystery about Callas jewels, the necklaces, the earrings with diamonds and rubies, perhaps disappeared after his death, remains unresolved. The only two people who could shed light on this affair, Ferruccio Mezzadri, who has been a very loyal driver for 20 years, and Bruna Lupoli, the historic maid of Callas, have never talked about it.
Strong divisions also created the decision of the cremation (shared by the Callas from alive, "Spread my ashes in the Aegean Sea.) I will embrace my Aristo across the sea ...", he told Bruna), not recommended by the Orthodox Christian religion to which Callas had remained faithful over the years. It should be noted, in the biography of Giovanni Battista Meneghini, Maria Callas my wife, the mystery about the semi-illegible signature on the release, "a certain Jean Roire, or Jean Rouen": it is simply the companion of Devetzi, Jean Roire, who took to accompany the body to the ovens, according to the practice, together with the operators necrofori. The suspicion is that the ashes of Callas have been lost or worse still stolen during their stay at the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, and that the ashes scattered in the sea by the Greek Minister of Culture during a ceremony in 1979 were not actually its.