The Woman Behind the Legend
Already hailed by critics as "an astounding achievement," "a stupendous story", "the finest biography of Maria Callas ever written," Marie Callas is a wonderfully readable, intimate life of one of the most talented and spellbinding women of our century.
For millions of people, Callas was the focus of unparalleled fascination -- the enigma of a highly publicized and yet intensely private personality. After years of research, travelling around the world to interview virtually everyone who played a part in Callas' life -- her friends, her family, her colleagues -- Arianna Stassinopoulos has succeeded in penetrating the barriers of Callas' public facade to reveal the complex woman behind the legend. Written with a profound empathy for its subjects, the biography is alive with Maria's passion, her emotional presence, making us feel the psychological conflicts that triggered her astonishing career and the tragedy that unfolded behind it.
Maria's career is brought brilliantly to life: her self-willed transformations from a chubby, painfully shy and awkward girl into the magnificent Callas presence; the triumphs at La Scala, the Met, Covent Garden; the celebrated battles with Rudolf Bing, Renata Tebaldi, and others; all the musical glory of perhaps the greatest dramatic opera singer who has ever lived.
Yet a single event was to change irrevocably the direction of her professional life. At age thirty-four, at a party in Venice given by Elsa Maxwell, Maria Callas met Aristotle Onassis for the first time. A man of enormous power and charismatic charm, Onassis set himself the task of winning the great diva, and Maria soon fell headlong into a tumultuous emotional odyssey that was to last a decade and wreak havoc with the talent, fortune, or reputation of nearly everyone concerned, including Jacqueline Kennedy.
Arianna Stassinopoulos re-creates it all -- the world of international high society, floating palaces, exiled princes, and reigning millionaires; of grand parties and great riches. Even as she evokes this fabulous life, the author looks beyond the glitter to explore the real nature of Maria's passionate love affair with Ari, the ill-fated marriage that went before it, her unresolvable conflicts with her mother, her secret abortion, her bitter humiliation when Onassis dropped her for Jackie, and her romantic entanglement with Giusseppe di Stephano, with whom she made her disastrous comeback in 1973. And underlying all this turmoil, a ceaseless struggle raged within -- between the legend and the woman, Callas and Maria.
Arianna Stassinopoulos documents this struggle with a wealth of previously unpublished material: Maria's private letters to her godfather; the transcripts of her anguished talks with her trusted friend, the music critic John Ardoin, just before Onassis married Jackie; her autobiographical tapes recorded in the last year of her life; and the revelations of those closest to her. Never has the story of Maria Callas been told in such an illuminating and intimate detail. Marie Callas is by any measure a major work.
"An intelligent and absorbingly built-up portrait of human nature on both sides of the footlights at its most magnetic."
- The Sunday Times (London)