Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published February 11th 2019
As Maria's story unfolds we catch rare glimpses of her
Legendary opera diva, Maria Callas, was, even in her own lifetime, an enigma.
Her artistry and vocal technique enthralled an adoring public. Media interest was invasive and aggressive. Her own personal vulnerabilities, alongside her public persona, made her life (and indeed her early death) the stuff of operatic legend.
A lot has been written about La Diva Assoluta, and a lot has been surmised. Her singing polarised (and still polarises) operatic aficionados, from the public who worship her every vocal utterance, to those who compare her as second to Joan Sutherland or Renate Tebaldi.
But love her or not, Maria Callas was theYour text goes here diva that awakened passion, one way or another. None could deny her acting skills although plenty argued about her vocal quality, her technique, her private life and her public life.
Born in New York City to Greek immigrant parents in 1923, Maria was taken back to Greece by her ambitious mother in 1936 when she was about 13. Lying about her age to enable her to enrol in the Greek National Conservertoire, Maria was recalled by her teacher Mary Trivella as "Mary, a very plump young girl, wearing big glasses for her myopia"
But this movie refuses to judge Maria by other people's words and deeds. The subtitle of the movie In Her Own Words underscores the premise of the film.
While we do hear opinions and thoughts on Maria from her beloved teacher, Elvira de Hidalgo (with whom she maintained a life long deep and meaningful relationship) and words from Rudolf Bing, the Austrian born impresario who ran the Metropolitan Opera, most of this movie is footage and words sourced from Maria herself.
Sensitively read by renowned operatic mezzo Joyce Di Donato, the letters of Maria to her teacher, Elvira Di Hidalgo, her friend Princess Grace of Monaco and others offers insights into the mind of this most elusive of divas. Footage of an interview with David Frost, recorded in 1970, shows an eloquent thoughtful woman, not lacking in self-awareness, justifying her seemingly outrageous behaviours with great clarity.
For the lover of Maria Callas, this movie is a treasure trove of unexpected delights. For the lover of opera in general, this movie elucidates and enhances the reputation of this most wonderful artiste. For the student of human behaviour, this movie educates and provokes thought. For the more casual observer, one cannot help but be struck by the similarity between Maria Callas and Diana, Princess of Wales.
Both media fodder, both misunderstood, both raked over after their early deaths. The relationship between Callas and the media, like that of Diana, was one of mutual need but mutual mistrust. Her divorce was front page news. Her affair with Onassis was front page news. His marriage to Jackie Kennedy, which Callas learned about through the media, was front page news. His subsequent resuming of his long-standing affair with Maria over his marriage vows was front page news.
La Callas and Aristotle Onassis (Photograph in the Public Domain)
Maria Callas was an icon of the ages. Like Elvis Presley or Freddie Mercury, her star power did not wane with her early death. This movie allows her voice to be heard amongst the clamour of the other voices that tried to dictate to her in her lifetime.