“Maria by Callas”—movie review   Leave a comment

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As a kid the only thing I knew about opera was what I learned in music appreciation in high school and that was “Carmen” and “Madame Butterfly”. I, also, went on a school trip to the ‘Old Met’ plus let’s not forget Mario Lanza as Caruso or Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy.
In the 1950s I was very much into theatre, both musicals and plays, plus concerts, pop and Bernstein, movies, television was becoming very popular and the name Maria Callas started to appear in papers, magazines, interview shows on television but mainly became known as a prima donna first in a good way than as a sneer. She was a married woman having an affair with a Greek millionaire who would eventually leave her for Jackie Kennedy after the United States President died.
In “Maria by Callas” Maria Callas tells her story in her words, pictures, events and we hear her voice at its best, though recordings 50-60 years ago weren’t as clear as they are today. We see her being mobbed by fans, the press, notable people like Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Taylor, Bridgette Bardot, interviewed by Edward R. Murrow, David Frost and Barbara Walters. She talks about how and why performances were missed and how, as a woman, she had to choose between her career and having a family, her feuds with her mother and the Met Opera director Rudolph Bing.
Whether playing the Diva or the rejected lover the main things that stand out about Maria Callas are her wide, open black eyes, thin body and, yes, that glorious voice. I won’t pretend I know bel canto technique from a soaring soprano or other voices but I can be moved and I was by many of the arias she sings in this documentary.
“Maria by Callas” presents a woman, a singer, many of us may have only known by the headlines or a gay icon but who deservedly was called ‘the’ female opera singer of the twentieth century. It also makes me realize what I missed not seeing her perform on stage.

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