“My blood is Greek and this no-one can change.” Maria Callas.
2017 is shaping up as the year of Maria Callas.
September 16 marks the 40th anniversary of the magnificent Greek-American opera diva’s death at the age of 53. Already, the tributes have begun.
A high-profile exhibition called “Private Callas”, featuring some of Callas’ captivating costumes and personal keepsakes, has just closed in Milan. There’s also a Hollywood biopic scheduled for release later this year. (Read about it HERE)
Meanwhile, Athens, too, will take a leading role in immortalising the most famous Greek woman of modern times.
An unmissable Callas tribute debuts on May 10, as the Theocharakis Foundation presents more than two hundred of Callas’ personal belongings. The dazzling exhibition will feature theater costumes from some of her most unforgettable roles, dresses, furniture, jewelry, handwritten letters, letters by relatives, friends and artists … all creating a narrative that records the life of the tragic and lyrical icon with the celestial voice who went on to become one of the great divas of her time.
In addition, exciting plans are underway to open a permanent museum to “La Divina” in Athens, to preserve her myth and her musical legacy – as well as creating a dynamic new tourist attraction for the capital. Scheduled to open sometime in 2018, the Maria Callas Museum (MCM) will be one of the few permanent museums worldwide, and will be housed in a four-storey historic building of 1000sqm in downtown Athens (Mitropoleos St). Both the building and the collection belong to the municipality of Athens.
Visitors will be able to immerse in some of Callas’ most celebrated roles in four theatrical soundscapes; explore her fascinating life and career through digital exhibits, interviews and costume displays; and acquire quality books and recordings.
There will also be a La Divina expresso and wine bar (to stay open outside museum hours) and a temporary exhibitions hall, available for use for small concerts, masterclasses and private dinner galas.
Born, Cecilia Sophia Anna Maria Kalogeropoulos in New York City on December 2, 1923, “La Divina” helped to redefine opera in the 20th century in such signature roles as Tosca, Norma and La Traviata, (while her 1951 Aida in Mexico where she hit the top E-flat is still hailed as one of the greatest operatic moments of all time).
But much of our enduring fascination with Maria Callas has to do with the fact that her dramatic personal life mirrored the operatic heroines she portrayed on stage.
There was her notoriously fractious relationship with her mother; the indefatigable ambition; the legendary rivalry with Italian soprano Renata Tebaldi. And of course, her stormy decade-long affair with Aristotle Onassis. Callas embarked on a highly-documented romance with Onassis in 1957, while still married to Giovanni Battista Meneghini. The shipping tycoon abandoned her for Jacqueline Kennedy in 1968, after which a heart-broken Callas fell into an extended professional and personal decline, from which she never truly recovered.
‘First I lost my voice, then I lost my figure, and then I lost Onassis,’ she once memorably said.
Maria Callas runs May 10 until September 30, at B & M THEOCHARAKIS FOUNDATION, Vasillissis Sofias 9 & Merlin 1, tel: 210.361.1206, www.thf.gr
Insider Weekly, March 29, 2017.