THE UNKNOWN CALLAS: The Greek Years

Nicholas Petsalis-Diomidis, Author, N. Petsales-Diomedes, Author THE UNKNOWN CALLAS: The Greek Years

Legendary diva Maria Callas was born in New York City in 1923 to Greek immigrants George and Litsa Kaloyeropoulou. In 1937, Litsa abruptly left her husband and returned to her homeland, taking Maria, whom she called Mary, and her sister. In this exhaustively researched book, historian Petsalis-Diomidis tells the story of Mary Kaloyeropoulou's student years in Athens, where she lived from 1937 to 1945. During that formative period she studied with two prominent vocal teachers, Maria Trivella at the National Conservatory and Elvira de Hidalgo at the Athens Conservatory, and launched her career in leading roles at the Greek National Opera. She believed she could become the greatest singer in the world, and the author, a historian living in Athens, shows how poverty, the struggle to survive during the WWII German occupation, and a troubled home life with a mother she hated contributed to her tempestuous personality and her ruthless pursuit of her goal. Having interviewed many who knew her, the author constructs a fascinating portrait of an overweight, contentious teenager who alienated nearly everyone she met, but who transformed into a magnetic presence on stage. Leonidas Zoras, conductor for the National Opera, said of Callas at 21, "Whenever she came on stage, so powerful was her personality that everybody's attention was concentrated entirely on her." Her extraordinary acting ability enabled her to use to compensate for the well-known vocal flaws that plagued her throughout her career. Among the recent spate of books on Callas, which tend to concentrate on the sensational aspects of her life, this stands out for its insight into her evolution as an artist. Petsalis-Diomidis's fine book won Greece's National Biography Award in 1999. B&w photos. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/19/2001
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
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