MARIA CALLAS: biography of the legendary opera singer | Documentary

Most sopranos can make you cry in the last act of Traviata (an opera composed of 4 acts). But she made you cry in the second act.

Andy Anderson (producer)

Maria Callas, nicknamed ‘La Divina’ (The Divine One), was arguably the most famous soprano of the 20th century. The music documentary Maria Callas: Life and Art (1987) looks at the great singer as a person, pays tribute to her vocal artistry and her talent for distinctive portrayal of dramatic roles.

The biographical film, produced and directed by Alan Lewens and Alastair Mitchell, was released in 1987 – ten years after Callas’ death. In extensive interviews, friends and companions describe how they saw her, and the diva herself even has her say in archive footage. And in between there are rare original excerpts from her breathtaking singing performances. In this way, the film creates a portrait of the legendary singer, who was torn between private and artistic ambitions.

Maria Callas (1923-1977) was frenetically acclaimed and even revered as a goddess by many, while others criticized her harshly for her less-than-perfect singing. This documentary pays tribute to the life and art of the soprano beyond clichés and judgements. A must-see for all fans of Callas, and for all opera fans.

At a glance:

(00:00) Giacomo Puccini: Tosca (1964)
(05:33) Maria Callas interviewed
(07:11) Maria Callas interviewed
(13:24) Maria Callas interviewed
(14:19) Maria Callas interviewed
(17:39) Giuseppe Verdi: The Sicilian Vespers
(23:38) Vincenzo Bellini: Norma (1955)
(25:37) Luigi Cherubini: Medea (1953)
(31:27) Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata
(33:21) Gioachino Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia
(39:32) Maria Callas interviewed
(41:17) Maria Callas interviewed
(48:10) Bizet: Carmen (1962)
(49:43) Maria Callas interviewed
(50:40) Giacomo Puccini: Tosca (1964)
(53:02) Giacomo Puccini: Tosca (1964)
(56:11) Maria Callas interviewed
(59:30) Maria Callas as a teacher at the Juilliard School, New York
(1:02:39) Maria Callas interviewed
(1:04:12) Maria Callas with Giuseppe Di Stefano in Japan
(1:07:00) Maria Callas with Giuseppe Di Stefano in Japan

In addition, interviews about Maria Callas with:
Robert Sutherland – accompanist
Zannis Kambanis – tenor
George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood – classical music administrator and author
Franco Zeffirelli – director and producer of operas
Giuseppe Di Stefano – tenor
Sandor A. Gorlinsky – impresario and agent
Andy Anderson – producer
Jack Pitman – Variety critic
Carlo Maria Giulini – conductor
Edward R. Murrow – journalist
Peter Andry – EMI recording manager
Edith Gorlinsky – friend


FUCHS, Adriaan, In Search of the ‘True’ Sound of an Artist: A Study of Recordings by Maria Callas. Thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy (Music Technology) in the Faculty of Arts, Stellenbosch University, April 2006. [PDF]