Athens

Famous Greeks [5]: Maria Callas

19 Feb 2017

Maria Callas (born Maria Kalogeropoulou in New York to Greek parents) was one of the greatest opera singers of the past century. Her life was full of personal tragedy and scandals worthy of a grand opera diva, with the press often focusing on her tamperament and stage walk outs rather than her extraordinary talent and voice.
In 1937 she returned to Greece where she was admitted to the National Conservatoire in Athens and started music lessons encouraged by her mother with whom she had a difficult relationship.
In 1947 Callas arrived in Italy to perform “La Gioconda”. A few days later she met Giovanni Meneghini, a wealthy Italian industrialist and opera lover and they married two years later. Meneghini supported her career and subsequently, the doors of the biggest Italian theatres opened to her, where she performed the most difficult opera parts like Verdi’s Traviata and Puccini’s Tosca.
In 1951, she started performing at La Scala in Milan, and the seven years she spent there were the highlight of her career. In 1959 she left Meneghini for the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis and joined the international jet-set, abandoning stage performances. In 1964 she was persuaded to return to opera at Covent Garden. During the next year, despite vocal problems, she performed successfully a series of Normas and Toscas in New York and Paris but during one of them collapsed on stage. Against doctors’ advice, in July 1965 she decided to sing Tosca in Covent Garden, which was her last operatic performance.
In 1968, Aristotle Onassis abandoned her and married Jackie Kennedy, although it is said that they continue to meet frequently, even after the marriage. Callas returned to non-operatic performances and international recitals, but without great success. She spent the last four years of her life isolated in Paris, where she died in 1977. Her ashes were scatered over the Aegean sea according to her wish.

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