Maria’s Mystery

Gabriele Annan

  • Maria: Beyond the Callas Legend by Arianna Stassinopoulos
    Weidenfeld, 329 pp, £8.95, October 1980, ISBN 0 297 77544 8

Maria Callas died almost exactly three years ago. Two months later Arianna Stassinopoulos was commissioned to write her biography. She was half-way through when she made the discovery that there were two Callases: La Callas, the diva of the legend, and Maria, the living suffering woman ‘beyond’. ‘And just as she was in danger of disappearing into a shimmer of ordinariness – of insecurities, of snobbery, of fears, of common humanity – I rediscovered her without illusions in all her real rather than her public greatness … It is this passion for life, for her art and for something unknown beyond both, that was compelling her and driving her forever on.’ Miss Stassinopoulos worked hard at her research and unearthed three particularly enlightening sources. The first was Callas’s correspondence with her godfather, Leonidas Lantzounis, a Greek doctor living in New York. Callas wrote to him over a period of thirty years with astonishing frankness, especially about her notoriously hostile feelings towards her mother and sister. Secondly, there were transcripts of conversations between Callas and the American music critic John Ardoin; and thirdly, the desolate tapes she made all alone in the last years of her life.

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