Maria Callas (02/12/1923 - 16/09/1977)
Her real name was Anna Maria Cecilia Sophia Kalogeropoulou and she was born in 1923 in New York, as her parents had emigrated from Athens earlier that year. Her father opened a pharmacy and in 1929, he changed the family name to Callas. In 1932, Callas started her first piano lessons, along with her older sister. When she was 11 years old, she received the first award as a soloist at a children voice contest, organized by the radio station WOR of New York. In 1937, her parents divorced and Callas follows her mother to Athens. She enrolled at the National Conservatory of Athens where she met Elvira de Hidalgo, Callas’ main teacher.
Two years later, she debuted at the play Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. Just before the Greco – Italian War broke out, she collaborated with the Athens Opera and, in 1940, she performed at the Royal Theatre, with songs from William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. In 1942, she participated at the play Tosca by Giacomo Puccini. After the liberation of Greece, Callas decided to return to the United States, because she thought she was jostled at the Opera and because some of her colleagues accused her of collaborating with the Germans. In New York, she was unable to sign a contract at the Metropolitan Opera; however, the director offered her two roles at the plays Fidelio by Beethoven and Madame Butterfly by Puccini. Callas rejects both of them, because she did not want to sing Fidelio in English, and she considered herself too fat to be ethereal Butterfly.
Her introduction to the art director of the Verona Arena brought her to Italy. In 1947, she made her first appearance in Verona at the play Gioconda, and, in Venice, at the play Tristan and Isolde. In 1949, she married Italian industrialist Giovanni Batista Meneghini , who eventually became her manager. In 1951, Callas performed at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, which took off her career. For the following seven years, this was the theatre where Callas had her major triumphs. In 1957, she met Aristoteles Onassis, with whom they became romantically involved. After a series of successful roles, she gave her last opera performance at Covent Garden, London, at the play Tosca, directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
In 1966, she disclaimed her American citizenship, which effectively resulted in the dissolution of her marriage. She hoped now that Onassis would ask her in marriage, which never happened as Onassis married Jackie Kennedy. In 1970, she was admitted to hospital after trying to commit suicide. In 1973, she gave a performance at the Paris Opera, where the audience called her back on stage ten times. Her final performance was in Sapporo, Japan in December 1974. Callas died in 1977 in Paris.