Maria Callas (1923 - 1977)

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Summary

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Carlo Maria Giulini has described the appeal of Callas's voice:
It is very difficult to speak of the voice of Callas. Her voice was a very special instrument. Something happens sometimes with string instruments—violin, viola, cello—where the first moment you listen to the sound of this instrument, the first feeling is a bit strange sometimes. But after just a few minutes, when you get used to, when you become friends with this kind of sound, then the sound becomes a magical quality. This was Callas.

Maria Callas Biography & Family History

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Birth


New York, Manhattan County, NY

Death


Paris, Paris County, Île-de-France France
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Cause of death

Heart Failure

Burial / Funeral

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Obituary

Last Known Residence

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Life Expectancy

Family

Siblings: Vassilis Callas and Yakinthi Callas

Education

The tone of the voice was warm, lyrical, intense; it swirled and flared like a flame and filled the air with melodious reverberations like a carillon. It was by any standards an amazing phenomenon, or rather it was a great talent that needed control, technical training and strict discipline in order to shine with all its brilliance.
Trivella agreed to tutor Callas completely, waiving her tuition fees, but no sooner had Callas started her formal lessons and vocal exercises than Trivella began to feel that Callas was not a contralto, as she had been told, but a dramatic soprano. Subsequently, they began working on raising the tessitura of her voice and to lighten its timbre. Trivella recalled Callas as: A model student. Fanatical, uncompromising, dedicated to her studies heart and soul. Her progress was phenomenal. She studied five or six hours a day. ...Within six months, she was singing the most difficult arias in the international opera repertoire with the utmost musicality.
On April 11, 1938, in her public debut, Callas ended the recital of Trivella's class at the Parnassos music hall with a duet from Tosca. Callas recalled that Trivella: had a French method, which was placing the voice in the nose, rather nasal... and I had the problem of not having low chest tones, which is essential in bel canto... And that's where I learned my chest tones. However, when interviewed by Pierre Desgraupes (fr) on the French program L'invitée du dimanche, Callas attributed the development of her chest voice not to Trivella, but to her next teacher, the Spanish coloratura soprano Elvira de Hidalgo. Callas studied with Trivella for two years before her mother secured another audition at the Athens Conservatoire with de Hidalgo. Callas auditioned with "Ocean, Thou Mighty Monster" from Weber's Oberon. De Hidalgo recalled hearing "tempestuous, extravagant cascades of sounds, as yet uncontrolled but full of drama and emotion." She agreed to take her as a pupil immediately, but Callas's mother asked de Hidalgo to wait for a year, as Callas would be graduating from the National Conservatoire and could begin working. On April 2, 1939, Callas undertook the part of Santuzza in a student production of Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana at the Greek National Opera at the Olympia Theatre, and in the fall of the same year she enrolled at the Athens Conservatoire in Elvira de Hidalgo's class. In 1968, Callas told Lord Harewood, De Hildalgo had the real great training, maybe even the last real training of the real bel canto. As a young girl—thirteen years old—I was immediately thrown into her arms, meaning that I learned the secrets, the ways of this bel canto, which of course as you well know, is not just beautiful singing. It is a very hard training; it is a sort of a strait-jacket that you're supposed to put on, whether you like it or not. You have to learn to read, to write, to form your sentences, how far you can go, fall, hurt yourself, put yourself back on your feet continuously. De Hidalgo had one method, which was the real bel canto way, where no matter how heavy a voice, it should always be kept light, it should always be worked on in a flexible way, never to weigh it down. It is a method of keeping the voice light and flexible and pushing the instrument into a certain zone where it might not be too large in sound, but penetrating. And teaching the scales, trills, all the bel canto embellishments, which is a whole vast language of its own. De Hidalgo later recalled Callas as "a phenomenon... She would listen to all my students, sopranos, mezzos, tenors... She could do it all."[24] Callas herself said that she would go to "the conservatoire at 10 in the morning and leave with the last pupil ... devouring music" for 10 hours a day. When asked by her teacher why she did this, her answer was that even "with the least talented pupil, he can teach you something that you, the most talented, might not be able to do."

Professions

After the liberation of Greece, de Hidalgo advised Callas to establish herself in Italy. Callas proceeded to give a series of concerts around Greece, and then, against her teacher's advice, she returned to America to see her father and to further pursue her career. When she left Greece on September 14, 1945, two months short of her 22nd birthday, Callas had given 56 performances in seven operas and had appeared in around 20 recitals. Callas considered her Greek career as the foundation of her musical and dramatic upbringing, saying, "When I got to the big career, there were no surprises for me."
Main operatic career
After returning to the United States and reuniting with her father in September 1945, Callas made the round of auditions.[21] In December of that year, she auditioned for Edward Johnson, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, and was favorably received: "Exceptional voice—ought to be heard very soon on stage".
Callas maintained that the Met offered her Madama Butterfly and Fidelio, to be performed in Philadelphia and sung in English, both of which she declined, feeling she was too fat for Butterfly and did not like the idea of opera in English. Although no written evidence of this offer exists in the Met's records, in a 1958 interview with the New York Post, Johnson corroborated Callas's story: "We offered her a contract, but she didn't like it—because of the contract, not because of the roles. She was right in turning it down—it was frankly a beginner's contract."

Military Service

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Middle name

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Gender

Female

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Timeline

1923 - In the year that Maria Callas was born, on September 1, an earthquake - the Great Kanto earthquake - destroyed one-third of Tokyo. Measuring 7.9 and with a reported duration of between 4 and 10 minutes, casualties totaled about 142,800 deaths, including about 40,000 who went missing and were presumed dead.

1939 - She was 16 years old when in May, Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated film, reached a total international gross of $6.5 million which made it (to then) the most successful sound film of all time. First released in December 1937, it was originally dubbed "Disney's Folly" but the premiere received a standing ovation from the audience. At the 11th Academy Awards in February 1939, Walt Disney won an Academy Honorary Award - a full-size Oscar statuette and seven miniature ones - for Snow White.

1962 - When she was 39 years old, on August 5th, actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe died in Brentwood California. She was ruled to have died from suicide due to a drug overdose. There has been controversy regarding the circumstances ever since, due to her relationships with Jack and Bobby Kennedy.

1967 - When she was 44 years old, on November 7th, President Johnson signed legislation passed by Congress that created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which would later become PBS and NPR. The legislation required CPB to operate with a "strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature".

1977 - In the year of Maria Callas's passing, on May 25th, Star Wars premiered in theaters. Eventually, it became the highest-grossing film of all time - until E.T. surpassed it a few years later. It was an immediate hit with theatergoers.

Maria Callas Family Tree

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Obituary

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Maria Callas, Commendatore OMRI[1] (/ˈkæləs/; Greek: Μαρία Κάλλας; December 2, 1923 – September 16, 1977) was an American-born Greek soprano, one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century. Many critics praised her bel canto technique, wide-ranging voice and dramatic interpretations. Her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria to the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini and further, to the works of Verdi and Puccini; and, in her early career, to the music dramas of Wagner. Her musical and dramatic talents led to her being hailed as La Divina.
Born in New York City and raised by an overbearing mother who had wanted a son, she received her musical education in Greece and established her career in Italy. Forced to deal with the exigencies of 1940s wartime poverty and with near-sightedness that left her nearly blind onstage, she endured struggles and scandal over the course of her career. She turned herself from a heavy woman into a svelte and glamorous one after a mid-career weight loss, which might have contributed to her vocal decline and the premature end of her career.
The press exulted in publicizing Callas's temperamental behavior, her supposed rivalry with Renata Tebaldi and her love affair with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. Although her dramatic life and personal tragedy have often overshadowed Callas the artist in the popular press, her artistic achievements were such that Leonard Bernstein called her "the Bible of opera" and her influence so enduring that, in 2006, Opera News wrote of her: "Nearly thirty years after her death, she's still the definition of the diva as artist—and still one of classical music's best-selling vocalists."
The name on Callas's New York birth certificate is Sophie Cecilia Kalos. She was born at Flower Hospital on December 2, 1923, to Greek parents, George Kalogeropoulos (c. 1881 – 1972) and Elmina Evangelia "Litsa" (née Demes; originally Dimitriadou; c. 1894 – 1982), although she was christened Maria Anna Cecilia Sofia Kalogeropoulos (Greek: Μαρία Άννα Καικιλία Σοφία Καλογεροπούλου). Callas's father had shortened the surname Kalogeropoulos first to "Kalos" and subsequently to "Callas" in order to make it more manageable.
They also had a daughter, named Yakinthi (later called "Jackie"), in 1917 and the birth of a son, named Vassilis, in 1920. Vassilis's death from meningitis in the summer of 1922 dealt a blow to the marriage. In 1923, after realizing that Litsa was pregnant again, George made the unilateral decision to move his family to America, a decision which Yakinthi recalled was greeted with Litsa "shouting hysterically" followed by George "slamming doors". The family left for New York in July 1923, moving first into an apartment in the heavily ethnic Greek neighborhood of Astoria, Queens.
Litsa was convinced that her third child would be a boy; her disappointment at the birth of another daughter was so great that she refused to even look at her new baby for four days. Maria was christened three years later at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in 1926. When Maria was 4, George Callas opened his own pharmacy, settling the family in Manhattan on 192nd Street in Washington Heights where Callas grew up. Around the age of three, Maria's musical talent began to manifest itself, and after Litsa discovered that her youngest daughter also had a voice, she began pressing "Mary" to sing. Callas later recalled, "I was made to sing when I was only five, and I hated it." The marriage continued to deteriorate and in 1937 Evangelia decided to return to Athens with her two daughters.

Memories

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Maria Callas, Commendatore OMRI was an American-born Greek soprano, one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century. Many critics praised her bel canto technique, wide-ranging voice and dramatic interpretations.
Born: December 2, 1923, Manhattan, New York City, NY
Died: September 16, 1977, Paris, France
Spouse: Giovanni Battista Meneghini (m. 1949–1959)
Siblings: Vassilis Callas, Yakinthi Callas
Quotes
Don't talk to me about rules, dear. Wherever I stay I make the rules.
You are born an artist or you are not. And you stay an artist, dear, even if your voice is less of a fireworks. The artist is always there.
When music fails to agree to the ear, to soothe the ear and the heart and the senses, then it has missed the point.
Oct 19 · Reply

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