MARIA CALLAS: An Intimate Biography

Anne Edwards, Author . St. Martin's $27.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-312-26986-9

Edwards (Katharine Hepburn), author of several biographies of iconic women, including Princess Di and Judy Garland, delivers a fresh, highly engrossing take on one of history's most legendary divas. Even those with little interest in opera or celebrity will be swept into this tale of an "awkward, fat girl" who became the "slim, lionized diva who... changed the face of opera forever." While there are more than 30 biographies of Callas (1923–1977), Edwards's perhaps most handily pierces fable with fact. (Most notably, she produces evidence refuting Nicholas Gage's claim in his recent Greek Fire that Callas had—and lost—a son by Onassis.) Edwards chronicles Callas's life from her humble beginnings as a pharmacist's daughter in Astoria, Queens, New York, to formal music training in war-torn Greece to phenomenal triumph in the world's most renowned opera houses. She also provides descriptions of opera plots, costumes and sceneries, and admirably captures the economics, passions and egos that drove the major players in Callas's life, including her most famous paramour, Aristotle Onassis, and her publicity-seeking, self-martyring mother. "There was something of Norma Desmond and Sunset Boulevard about Maria's life after Onassis and her voice died," Edwards writes, describing Callas's lonely final years. Edwards recounts, too, the star's death at 53, her dispiriting funeral ("A high wind rose just as the ashes were being offered to the blustery sea, and some of them flew back and landed on the clothes of the mourners") and the grifters who swooped in to feed on Callas's financial remains. Edwards's riveting book is sure to prompt new interest in Callas's dramatic life. Two 8-page b&w photo inserts. Agent, Mitch Douglas. (Aug. 20)

Forecast:Certain to lure Callas cultists, but its appeal is likely to be much wider; several of Edwards's biographies have been bestsellers, and this one, too, has strong commercial potential.

Reviewed on: 07/09/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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