Unwanted by her mother, a perfectionist and un-liked character, a failed marriage plus a widely known affair. These are the main ingredients of the life of Maria Callas. Despite all the drama in her life, she became one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century.
Born in New York in 1923, to Greek immigrant parents, Maria Callas her start in life was anything but glamourous. They were poor, her mother didn’t like her, and Maria was always a chubby kid with glasses. Then her mother decided, from the age of 14, that Maria had a talent for singing. She enrolled her in the Athens Conservatory and by 1949 Maria Callas had become a household name. In 1951, she moved to Italy and met her husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini. She there received the nickname La Divina because her voice was by any standards an amazing phenomenon.
However, Maria’s experience of being married to the man 30 years her senior and also her manager, wasn’t one of bliss, but more of a bird in a cage. It’s no wonder she was charmed and overwhelmed by the wealthy but married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis and his lifestyle of leisure, yachts, Greek islands and freedom. She fell madly in love with him and divorced her husband, deeply hoping to marry Onassis and have a family. During their years together Maria’s appearances on stage became scarcer and her voice more fragile as she lost a lot of weight trying to fit in with the jet-set she was surrounded by. Callas got really close to fulfilling her dream until Onassis suddenly called it off and, even more surprisingly, married the widow Jacky Kennedy in 1968.
They kept seeing each other and therefore his death in 1975 totally devastated her. Her final years were spent in solitude though her death still came as a shock to many; at the age of 53 she passed away from a heart attack. Despite her wealth, fame and impressive circle of friends, one can assume that she never really outgrew her feelings of insecurity and inferiority. Though in the eyes of the world she is and always will be a giant inspiration and amazing artist, who’s voice, language and interpretations remain unparalleled.
Photos are a courtesy of maria-callas.com