Home CULTURE Remembering the 100th Anniversary of Maria Callas Birth

Remembering the 100th Anniversary of Maria Callas Birth

NEW YORK, NY – by Catherine Tsounis

            Leonard Bernstein called her “the Bible of opera”. Her influence was so enduring that, in 2006, Opera News wrote of her: “Nearly thirty years after her death, she’s still the definition of the diva as artist—and still one of classical music’s best-selling vocalists.” Maria Callas, a New York City Greek American became the greatest opera singer of her time. Her 100th Anniversary of her birth is being celebrated in 2023. We were proud in Astoria that this great lady was born in New York city and was a Greek American.

            On a 2017 Greece trip, I attended an exceptional exhibition titled ‘The Myth Lives On’, presented by the B & M Theocharakis Foundation, in Athens. Two hundred of her personal belongings were displayed including: theatre costumes, furs, jewelry, dresses, furniture, and handwritten letters and notes from friends and relatives. TV and movies portrayed her relationship with the richest man in the world at that time, shipowner Aristotle Onassis. She passed away in 1977 at the age of fifty-three.

            Legendary interviewer Mike Wallace had one of his finest interviews with Maria Callas in February 1974. I was impressed with her answer about her personal life. Basically, she said, “I had a husband, a lover and that’s that…no more, I am now singing.” Her brilliant answers put Wallace on the defensive in his ’60 Minutes” show. Through the years, I remembered that exceptional interview.

            The exhibit had photos of her high points in her career. Her gowns and shawls were impressive. An exhibit showed a signed menu from a party in Callas” honor by American gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell. At the Danielli Hotel in Venice, September 4, 1957. The date was a landmark in Callas” life. It was the first time she met Aristotle Onassis. She took particular care of this memento. Maxwell introduced Onassis and Callas to each other as “the two most famous living Greeks in the world.

            A unique woman who died young.  The phrase often heard was “There is only one Maria Callas.” She elevated the youth of my 1970’s generation because of her major accomplishments.

[Photos by Catherine Tsounis]