Thursday, September 16, 2010

L'amor della diva

On this, the thirty-third anniversary of her death, I've been thinking about Maria Callas, for whom adjectives seem either superfluous or misleading.  Aprile Millo has a touching post here.  There are some great stories of Callas-discovery over at Parterre box, but I had no older-generation opera-lovers to take me literally or figuratively by the collar and command, "Listen to this!"  I find I can't say for certain what the first time I heard Callas' voice was.  But I do remember, vividly, the first times I listened.  Tosca was one of the first operas I loved, and her Tosca was the first opera recording I bought for myself.  This was an investment undertaken in fear and trembling by my undergraduate self, after searching reference works and internet comment for recommendations.  I listened.  I was drawn in.  And the diva's entrance was, for me, an "aha" moment: so that is what Tosca sounds like.  I was mesmerized.  It was impossible not to take the emotions expressed by that voice seriously; impossible not to be moved.  After that, I checked Un Ballo in Maschera out of the college library; that became the second recording I bought.

The person and persona of Maria Callas are, of course, of legendary stature. Here she discusses the definition of a prima donna (!), serving music, acting in opera, Serafin, and Bellini (further parts of the interview include discussion of choosing and learning roles, interpreting characters (and convincing the public you're right!) and giving opera life in the face of changing audience sensibilities.  But I hope it is a tribute to the artist that, however much I may admire, pity, and puzzle over the particulars of her life, all that fades and is forgotten when listening to her sing.  She is Tosca, Amelia, Norma, Leonora, Violetta, Medea, Anna Bolena; and I believe every note... after the first one, which is always occupied with me thinking "Ah yes! Callas."


  1. Has anybody ever said to you, Lucy, you've got such a fantastic way of writing! Very informative, never a dull moment, fresh and crispy, inspiring, very well built up, great textural structure. I could go on for a while but I'll leave it at this. You might end up being a little bit too much aware of all these qualities and I wouldn't like it to have an adverse effect on your writing, of course. Let's just conclude by saying: I like it.

  2. What generous words, Rob! Thanks for the kind encouragement; it's much appreciated.


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