Maria Callas (born Kalogeropoulos) was born in New York on Dec 2, 1923, to Greek immigrant parents. As a small child, she enjoyed listening to gramophone records and radio programmes and took piano and singing lessons.
Because of marital and financial problems, Mrs. Kalogeropoulos returned to Greece with her two daughters, and Maria studied singing under a famous singing master in Athens. After several school performances, she was offered a part at the Royal Opera, in ‘Boccaccio’.
In 1940, Greece became engaged in the Second World War and, from time to time, Maria performed for the enemy troops. In 1942, she replaced an unwell soprano at the opera to play ‘Tosca’. When Athens was liberated by the British Forces, she worked as an interpreter for some time but decided to return to her father in New York, in September 1945.
She should have debuted in Chicago, but the company went bankrupt so, when Maria was offered a contract for ‘La Gioconda’ in Verona, she gladly went to Italy.
In Italy, she met her future husband Meneghini, as well as her mentor, Tullio Serafin. Her sensational performance in Wagner’s ‘Walkyrie’ and, two days later, in Bellini’s ‘I Puritani’, received worldwide publicity. From then on she was a star and she received many recording offers from gramophone record companies. These records made her famous and popular the world over.
“When music fails to agree to the ear,
to soothe the ear and the heart and the senses,
then it has missed the point.” – Maria Callas
The press haunted her constantly and her divorce from Menighini and her affair with Aristotle Onassis were covered all over the world. She contracted a throat disease which caused her voice to lose quality, but she refused to take it seriously. After Onassis’ marriage to Jacqueline Kennedy, Maria broke down, then made several attempts to resurrect her career, but her voice was a mere shadow of its former self; fans were saddened by its deterioration.
She died of heart failure in September 1977.