Maria Callas as Violetta in La traviata, 1958
Maria Callas, Commendatore OMRI (Greek: Μαρία Κάλλας; December 2, 1923 – September 16, 1977), was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century. Critics praised her bel canto technique, wide-ranging voice and dramatic gifts. Her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria to the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini; 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, she received her musical education in Greece and established her career in Italy. Forced to deal with the exigencies of wartime poverty and with myopia 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 hervocal decline and the premature end of her career. The press exulted in publicizing Callas's allegedly temperamental behavior, her supposed rivalry withRenata Tebaldi and her love affair with Aristotle Onassis. Her dramatic life and personal tragedy have often overshadowed Callas the artist in the popular press. However, her artistic achievements were such that Leonard Bernstein called her "the Bible of opera"; and her influence was 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." Contents
The apartment house in Athens where Callas lived from 1937 to 1945 According to her birth certificate, Maria Callas was born Sophia Cecelia Kalos at Flower Hospital (now the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center), at 1249 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, on December 2, 1923 to Greek parents George Kalogeropoulos and Evangelia "Litsa" (sometimes "Litza") Dimitriadou, though she was christened Anna Maria Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulou (Greek: Μαρία Άννα Σοφία Καικιλία Καλογεροπούλου)—the genitive of the patronymic Kalogeropoulos. Callas's father had shortened the surname Kalogeropoulos first to "Kalos" and subsequently to "Callas" in order to make it more manageable. George and Evangelia were an ill-matched couple from the beginning; he was easy-going and unambitious, with no interest in the arts, while his wife was vivacious and socially ambitious, and had held dreams of a life in the arts for herself. The situation was aggravated by George's philandering and was improved neither by the birth of a daughter, named Yakinthi (later called Jackie), in 1917 nor the birth of a son, named Vassilis, in 1920. Vassilis's death from meningitis in the summer of 1922 dealt another blow to the marriage. In 1923, after realizing that Evangelia was pregnant again, George made the unilateral decision to move his family to America, a decision which Yakinthi recalled was greeted with Evangelia "shouting hysterically" followed by George "slamming doors". The family left for New York in July 1923, moving first into an apartment in Astoria, Queens. Evangelia 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 Evangelia 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...
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