Opera Scotland

Maria Callas Suggest updates

Maria Anna Cecilia Sofia Kalogeropoulou.

Born New York, 3 December 1923.

Died Paris, 16 September 1977.

Greek soprano.

Maria Callas enjoyed a uniquely prominent and controversial career, dominating the operatic world from the early fifties for over a decade.

Callas was one of the first great operatic artists to have most of her roles preserved in recordings. These are constantly re-issued, and continue to sell. Her abilities as an intense vocal actress in the central Italian repertoire still seem astonishing, ranging through Rossini (Fiorilla, Rosina), Donizetti (Lucia), Bellini (Amina, Norma), Verdi (Lady Macbeth, Leonora, Violetta), Ponchielli (Gioconda), and Mascagni (Santuzza) to Puccini (Tosca).  Early in her career she sang the dramatic soprano repertoire, including a number of Wagnerian parts - Isolde, Brünnhilde, Kundry. Her talents also prompted revivals of several rarities including Cherubini (Medea), Spontini (La Vestale), Donizetti (Anna Bolena, Poliuto), and Bellini (Il pirata, I puritani).

Her teacher in Athens was the Spanish coloratura soprano Elvira de Hidalgo. Early roles for Callas in Athens, beginning in 1938 and continuing through the war years under German occupation, included Santuzza, Leonore and Turandot. She then moved to Italy, making her debut in 1947 as Gioconda at the Verona Arena. Early successes included appearances under the guidance of her mentor, the conductor Tullio Serafin at the Fenice in Venice, bizarrely singing the very different roles of Brünnhilde in Die Walküre and Elvira in I puritani within days of one another.

She appeared at La Scala Milan between 1951 and 1962 (with a brief gap in 1959), collaborating with several great conductors, including Serafin, Giulini and Karajan. Notable directors she worked with included Visconti and Zeffirelli. Her interpretations of Violetta and Norma were particularly well received, but she also brought about the revival of several forgotten works.

Callas appeared several times in the USA, starting with Chicago in 1954, but also at the New York Met and Dallas. She made several appearances in Mexico City as well as at the Paris Opéra.

In Britain, most of her appearances were at Covent Garden from 1952-3, returning in 1957-9, notably as Norma, Aïda and Medea. Her final role at the Royal Opera was Tosca, in a famous new 1964 production by Franco Zeffirelli, with Tito Gobbi as Scarpia. Her only other operatic appearances in Britain came when La Scala visited Edinburgh in 1957.

Roles in Scotland

Amina an orphan, raised by Teresa
Sonnambula 1957

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