A Night at the Opera: Remembering Maria Callas – Musicians.com
Whoever coined the phrase “a voice heard the world over” certainly had Maria Callas in mind. Throughout the 1950’s Maria Callas frequented the great opera houses of Europe and abroad: La Scala in Milan, Opera Garnier in Paris, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, Royal Opera House in London, Mexico’s Palacio de las Bellas Artes, and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. She added a touch of class to a musical genre that — at the time — was in dire need of a facelift.
Callas’ style and grace on the stage and off put Operatic performance back in the limelight. She reigned supreme during a career that spanned nearly 20 years. Always the perfectionist, Callas lost a substantial amount of weight for a 1954 production of Cherubini’s Medee. Her critics argued that the loss of muscle mass and tone affected her voice in later years as she lost command of the higher registry which often gave way to an unattractive warble.
But with great music comes great passion. And Maria Callas had both. She was romantically involved for many years with the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, and their love affair made headlines all over the world. At a time when Italians simply did not separate from their husbands much less divorce, Callas did both. Her relationship with Onassis ended nine years later and left Callas devastated, when Onassis left Callas for Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of assassinated US president John F. Kennedy.
She was once quoted as saying, “…First I lost my voice, then I lost my figure and then I lost Onassis…”
In 1960, she made her final appearance at La Scala in a new production of a lesser-known work by Donizetti, Poliuto, a role that was well-chosen for then limited vocal range. Still, in her final years as a singer, there were sell-out performances of Medea, Norma, and Tosca, most notably her Paris, New York, and Royal Opera House Covent Garden Toscas in early 1964 and, her last performance on stage, on 5 July 1965 at Covent Garden.