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Callas. Prima donna assoluta Stelios Galatopoulos

Callas. Prima donna assoluta

Stelios Galatopoulos

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 About the Book 

Maria Callas is a biographers dream. Born into poverty, she turned herself from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, and in the process became the most celebrated diva of the 20th century. She breathed life, drama, and passion into an art formMoreMaria Callas is a biographers dream. Born into poverty, she turned herself from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, and in the process became the most celebrated diva of the 20th century. She breathed life, drama, and passion into an art form that had hitherto remained the preserve of an intellectual elite, and was single-handedly responsible for turning opera from an arts-page sideshow to front-page news. Her bust-ups with the New York Met and her disastrous love life--culminating in a tragic obsession with Aristotle Onassis--were as enthralling as her voice, and there was a depressing inevitability about her mysterious, early death in 1977 at the age of 54. Its hardly surprising, then, that there have been any number of books written about Callas. Most have been little more than well-researched clippings jobs. Callas spent nearly 30 years in the public eye, and there is any amount of material about her on public record. What separates Stelios Galatopoulos from the rest of her biographers is the wealth of previously unpublished material from which he draws. He is stronger than most on Callass early years--particularly the German occupation of Greece during the Second World War--which is a period many writers try to ignore, as Callas was accused by many Greek patriots of having been a traitor to her country by continuing to perform for the Nazis in the Athens opera house. Galatopoulos is quick to absolve her of any charges of collaboration. This is probably a correct assessment, though he falls short of labeling Callas and her mother as the ruthless careerists and opportunists they undoubtedly were.Herein lie both the strength and weakness of the book. Galatopoulos was a close personal friend of Callas- as such he was privy to her most private thoughts and he offers us some fascinating new insights into her husband, Giovanni Meneghini- her lover Aristotle Onassis- and her mother. What he doesnt always do, though, is maintain a critical eye. Whenever he deals with anything controversial, he is happy to give Callas the benefit of the doubt. But all this is really a minor quibble. Overall, Galatopoulos does a superb job in re-creating the opera world of the 1940s through to the 1970s and he excels in his assessment of Callass artistic achievements. Maria Callas: Sacred Monster may not be the final word on the diva, but its as close as it comes. --John Crace