Maria Callas

Greek super-star soprano Maria Callas was born in New York City on 2 December 1923. She grew up in New York but her mother took her back to Athens in 1937. She studied initially at the Greek National Conservatoire with Maria Trivella. She made her professional debut with Greek National Opera as Beatrice in Suppé's Boccaccio, and first appeared in a leading role as Tosca in August 1942. After World War II ended, she returned to the USA to visit her father, and then began working in Verona, initially as La Gioconda, and was then taken up by influential Italian conductor Tullio Serafin to sing Isolde.

In Venice in 1949, whilst engaged to sing Brünnhilde in Die Walküre, another soprano, engaged to sing Elvira in I puritani, became ill, and Callas took on this role too, learning it in just six days and impressing the critics.

She made debuts at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires in 1949, and at Teatro alla Scala in 1950, at Covent Garden in 1952, in Chicago in 1954 and at the Met in 1956.

Her later career was marked by scandals, vocal deterioration and illness. In 1974 she toured the USA, South Korea and Japan with Giuseppe Di Stefano, and her final public performance was in Sapporo, Japan, on 11 November 1974. She lived largely alone in Paris at the end of her life, dying on 16 September 1977, aged only fifty-three. 

A selection of articles about Maria Callas

Ensemble. Original but Controversial - 'Sicilian Vespers' as conceived by Verdi, reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi

Ensemble. Sometimes Impressive - Bellini's 'Norma' from English Touring Opera, heard by Robert Hugill

Ensemble. Magical eloquence - The first night of Palm Beach Opera's revival of Bellini's 'Norma' provides a night to remember for Lawrence Budmen

Museum not Morgue - 'Opera and the Morbidity of Music', read by Robert Anderson

A Personal Stake - '150 Years of Opera in Chicago', reviewed by Malcolm Tattersall

With Callas in Mind - Personal reflections on visits to New York, by Grahame Ainge