Why Maria Callas is Still the Supreme Diva of All Time


“A woman who had everything and lost everything”. On her 100th anniversary, let’s delve into this fragile icon’s life, art and challenges with Annarita Briganti, author of the new book Maria Callas. La diva umana



By Gherardo Ulivi. Cover image by Anja Stroka.

On the 100th anniversary of her birth, we remember Maria Callas – a world-renowned talent whose life was full of turmoil and who was not as loved as she deserved to be. Callas had a journey before she achieved success, from America to Greece, and then her golden years in Milan, Italy, and around the world. Callas was a fearless performer on stage and never let anyone mistreat her. However, beneath the surface, she was Maria, a woman who longed for a family, to be a wife and raise children. This year, Pablo Larrain’s film Maria, starring Angelina Jolie as the great artist, will be released and address the topic. Annarita Briganti, the author of the book Maria Callas. La diva umana (Cairo), will discuss her book at La Ménagère bookstore in Florence. The book reconstructs her life, capturing the humanity that made Callas an incomparable artist etched in the pages of our history.

Anja Stroka for I’M Firenze Digest.

There is Callas, and there is Maria: what are the differences and why?

Maria Callas was an extremely intelligent woman with great talent, vision and freedom. In an interview following her last triumph at Teatro alla Scala in Milan in 1962 with Medea, she emphasised the duplicity of her character by stating: «The more Maria Callas becomes that poor Callas, the more she is afraid. […] Medea does not have to be afraid, but Maria does.» On stage, Callas feared no one; Maria was the woman who believed in love and died alone.

How did she begin her musical career? When did she discover her passion for opera?

Maria Callas was a child prodigy, a talent immediately sensed by her mother, who urged her to focus on her career as a possible source of success. Callas studied in Athens, accompanied by her mother and sister, and survived World War II. She arrived in Italy, where she experienced her golden age and became the Maria Callas we all remember today.

What was her most memorable moment on stage?

It is really too broad and extraordinary a career to be able to identify a single moment of glory. Maria Callas embodied the words she sang, just as the words she sang were her own body. She stated: «Every time I go on stage, they are waiting for me to slaughter me.».

What was her relationship with the audience?

Great. She always respected the audience, and was extremely honest. Still, she hated mediocrity and her uncompromising nature, combined with her gender, led to several conflicts throughout her life.

«A woman who had everything and lost everything». This phrase often recurs in interviews

It recurs often, unfortunately, in her public and private life. She experienced a lot of pain and great success. It is as if she absorbed the traits of the dramatic heroines she portrayed on stage. Despite being overwhelmed by pain, she always managed to find the strength to rise again.

What were the most difficult challenges she faced in her career and personal life, and how did she overcome them?

Professionally, Maria Callas has always been the best: talented, confident, meticulous. However, in her private life, she was consumed by pain. Her relationship with her mother, her thwarted love with Aristotle Onassis and her failure to raise children.

Maria Callas is an inspirational role model for young people today. Her legacy is a reminder of the beauty and power of music and art. What are the most precious gifts she left us a hundred years after her birth?

Her legacy is one of freedom, which was evident in both her public and private life. Freedom is a precious gift that comes at a cost, but it is the only way we can truly be ourselves and live fully. To be able to express oneself honestly is a trait that is essential for success, alongside patience and perseverance.

Speaking of freedom, hers was a divorce from her first and only husband, Meneghini, when there was no divorce law in Italy. And a boundless love for Onassis

Maria Callas caused a scandal when she fought for her divorce because there was no divorce law in Italy at the time. It was a difficult process, as all non-consensual separations are, but in this case, it had a positive outcome. Her decision to pursue a divorce was courageous and ahead of its time, which confirmed Callas’ forthrightness in rejecting a facade relationship. Onassis, on the other hand, was her great love; they were one of the most celebrated couples in history, and their love was so strong that it stayed with her until her death.


“There are no chains for love” – Maria Callas in her 1974 interview with Barbara Walters #mariacallas #ladivina #vintagevibes #opera #1970s #operasingers

♬ original sound – The Callas Project

How can we tell about her character and the evolution of her personality?

Maria Callas described herself as “proud and fragile”. She maintained a sense of trust in life and others that never wavered, even when she isolated herself. Had she not passed away at the age of 53, she would have likely found love again and continued to achieve success.

Speaking of style, what were her hallmarks? What were the hallmarks of her different style phases?

Maria Callas is an icon of beauty who continues to inspire music, art and fashion. One such example is Marina Abramović’s 7 Deaths of Maria Callas. Maria Callas is a prominent figure in all aspects of culture. She serves as a reference for every woman because she represents their bodies, which are often harshly judged according to artificial aesthetic standards in which she found herself trapped.

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