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Open Features: Maria Callas

Peter Wintersgill summarises the life of Maria Callas, La Divina, the singer who changed the face of post-war opera

4th December, 1923, in New York.

Being of Greek parentage, she studied at Athens Conservatoire from 1937.

Adult life
Athens debut as Tosca 1941. Italian debut at Verona as Gioconda 1947. Fame came when she sang as a last minute substitute as Elvira in Bellini's I Puritani under Tullio Serafin. La Scala debut 1951. Sang Norma in London 1951 and New York 1956 debuts.

She sang a little Wagner, but her main roles were bel canto, eg Rossini's Amida and Il Turco in Italia, Cherubini's Media, Spontini's La Vestale, Donizetti's Anna Bolina and Bellini's Il Pirata.

She changed the face of post-war opera. Known as La Divina, she reigned supreme with impeccable musicianship and exceptional acting ability. She worked under such conductors as de Sabata, Giulini, Bernstein and Karajan.

She was married to G. Meneghini, who was her manager.

She retired from the stage in 1965, but continued to give concerts and to teach.

She died 16th September, 1977, in Paris aged 53.


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