Arts & Culture

A Rare Peek Inside the World of Late Superstar Opera Singer Maria Callas

The new book reveals private photos and the icon’s own words.
IMAGE COURTESY FONDS DE DOTATION MARIA CALLAS. PHOTO BY FRANCO GREMIGNANO
Comments

“Four years ago, I had no idea who Maria Callas was,” says filmmaker and author Tom Volf. “But it was destiny that brought us together.” Flipping through Volf’s new tome, Maria by Callas (Assouline), it’s easy to see why he feels that way. The book combines photos of Callas, the superstar opera singer who died in 1977, from her own collections and those of her friends and family with her own words to paint an affecting and unusually personal portrait of a woman who spent her life in the public eye but never lost her air of mystery. Volf, while not a lifelong fan, has managed to peek behind the public persona of Callas and find a glimmer of the woman behind the star.


ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Callas with Luchino Visconti, who directed her in La Vistale in 1954.

Volf's interest in Callas was piqued after he happened into the Metropolitan Opera in New York one night, and found himself newly enamored of opera (he’d seen a work by Donizetti). He soon came across videos of Callas on YouTube. He was hooked. “I read everything about her and watched all the documentaries, but I still felt like there was something missing,” he says. “I felt like I didn’t know who she really was. I met some of her friends along the way, and one thing led to another.”


ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Callas with Aristotle Onassis on his yacht, Christina, in 1976.

Volf found an audience with some of Callas closest friends and managed to convince them to open their archives to him—not a small request. “Many of these people had been solicited [for photos] over the years, and they had remained very private as people who approached them were looking for gossip or for a story to tell,” he says. And while Callas led a life marked by scandal and celebrity, that wasn’t necessarily all Volf wanted to discuss.


ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Callas in Milan in 1958

“I was really just interested in knowing more about her,” he says. “And I was in my late 20s when these people were in their late 80s or older; they felt a genuine interest on my end and also they were interested in sharing the beauty of her, not just the gossip, with a new generation. I wasn’t writing about her, either, I was putting her at the center of everything.”


ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Callas choosing Cartier jewelry in Milan, 1957.

Even now, however, with his book out in the world and a film about Callas in the works, Volf still can’t claim to have figured out everything about the woman who so captivated him. “I was coming from a place of general interest, having read the biographies and watched the documentaries; I had a broad understanding of who she was, but mostly from people who had never met her,” he says. “The reason my book is called Maria by Callas is because there was an interview which had been lost for 40 years, but I retrieved, in which she said, ‘There are two people in me. There is Maria and there is the Callas, who I have to live up to.’ That gave me a distinct understanding of the duality that was in her.”


ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Callas in Van Cleef & Arpels jewels, after a premiere in Paris, 1958.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

Comments
View More Articles About:
About The Author
Adam Rathe
View Other Articles From Adam Rathe
Comments
Latest Stories
 
Share
The College Board hopes to measure students' "resourcefulness to overcome challenges and achieve more with less."
 
Share
The Queen made a glorious appearance in bright pink.
 
Share
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took the children to see the garden Kate designed at the Chelsea Flower Show.
 
Share
T&C’s experts weigh in on the women of Westeros and their not-so-subtle accessories.
 
Share
The true legacy of Nick Joaquin lies not in the volume or richness or brilliance of his works, but in the optimism in the Filipino.
 
Share
The things we hold dearest in the Truly Rich World are now taking a backseat to softer values such as mindfulness, flexibility, passion, inner peace, and rest.
 
Share
Only 15 cities account for over 30 percent of the world's billionaire population.
 
Share
During the 17th to 19th centuries, the Chinese survived a ruthless persecution by the Spaniards, and still emerged as crucial economic assets in the Philippines.
Load More Articles
CONNECT WITH US