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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Maria Callas

Maria Callas was born Sophia Cecelia Kalos at Flower Hospital (now the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center), at 1249 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, on December 2, 1923 to Greek parents. Blessed with a soprano voice of fine range and a gift for dramatic expression, Callas was one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century.

In the early years of her career, Callas was a heavy and full-figured woman; in her own words, "Heavy—one can say—yes I was; but I'm also a tall woman, 5' 8½" and I used to weigh no more than 200 pounds [91 kilograms]." During 1953 and early 1954, she lost almost 80 pounds (36 kg), by eating a sensible low-calorie diet of mainly salads and chicken.

She made her debut in Verona, Italy, in 1947 and at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1956.

Maria Callas as Violetta in La traviata, 1958

In 1957, after a performance in Donizetti's Anna Bolena, Maria was introduced to Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis at a party given in her honor by Elsa Maxwell. She eventually left her husband for him. Onassis would break off their relationship to marry Jacqueline Kennedy, leaving Callas devastated.

She waged an infamous feud with her mother Evangelia. Callas felt compelled to inform the Press in 1971: "I know my mother wrote a book about me, but I have never read it."

Maria Callas spent her last years living largely in isolation in Paris and died aged 53 on September 16, 1977, of a heart attack. She was cremated at the Père Lachaise Cemetery and her ashes were placed in the columbarium there. After being stolen and later recovered, in the spring of 1979 they were scattered over the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Greece, according to her wish.

Anna Calvi's song “Sing To Me” is a homage to Maria Callas, whose music the singer discovered as a child through her Italian father's record collection.

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