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Maria Callas: An Introduction

“As completely as anyone outside mythology, she transformed herself from a fat, awkward girl into a woman of magnetic beauty and personality”

Maria Kalogeropoulou, better known by the name Maria Callas, was born in America in 1923; she was a Greek soprano known for her magical voice, versatility and histrionic interpretations. Many critics were fond of her high notes and wide-ranging voice, while many detested her stage presence  at the height of her career. Her hard work and perseverance paid off, when she finally stepped into the spotlight after performing in La Gioconda in Verona, in August 1947. The audience and experts recognised her powerful voice and a remarkable ability to adopt coloratura roles with both extraordinary talent and expertise.

Maria’s life, although might have seemed like a fairy-tale, was far from it; she was raised by an overbearing mother, whose ultimate dream was to make her daughter the finest opera artist in the world. While chasing this dream, she neglected the physical as well as psychological needs of her unwanted daughter. The pressure and suffering she faced at the hands of both family and strangers took away her childhood from her, leaving the void of a long-lasting desire to be loved. Her life might have seemed like a dream at the peak of her career, but the heroines that Maria depicted onstage were nowhere to be seen in her private life.

 

Maria Callas’ Personality

“I belong to the givers. I want to give a little happiness even if I haven’t had much for myself. Music has enriched my life and, hopefully – through me, a little – the public’s. If anyone left an opera house feeling more happy and at peace, I achieved my purpose.”

 

 

Perfectionism

Maria was a perfectionist; she used to set goals and ideals that were almost unattainable for an average person. Even when she was a child, she would keep working and practising until her goal was reached. Her habit of working hard developed even further as her career advanced.

 

“I prepare myself for rehearsals like I would for marriage.”

 

However, this personality trait created several adjustment problems for Maria during her career. She would often become irrational, and set up impossible and unrealistic expectations for the opera staff, designers, and directors. She was her own harshest and most cruel critic and used to project the resulting rage onto other people working with her. Moreover, she later admitted that she hardly ever liked her performances and was always trying to improve her work.

 

“Only on very rare occasions do I feel I have given a marvellous performance”

 

Appreciation from the audience, and hard work were not enough to make Maria satisfied with her work. Sadly, the once longed-for success was even more challenging for her to cope with than the very struggle she endured to achieve it. Consequently, perfectionism was responsible for turning her into a neurotic person.



Neuroticism

Neuroticism, an important psychological phenomenon, is fairly evident in the personality and behaviour of Maria Callas. What caused this trait is a combination of various factors like repressed emotions, overwhelming circumstances, and generally unpleasant experiences, which intensified certain qualities like jealousy, envy, anxiety, fear, or guilt, etc. Looking closely at Maria Callas’ life, from childhood to the height of her career, one can conclude that her life traumas and miseries could be blamed for everything bad she did as a child, or even as an adult.

From the very start, she had built up a perception that if other students or her colleagues were succeeding, she was bound to fail.  This war inside her was the result of the constant reminder during her childhood of how her sister was superior to her in every possible way. She was acquainted with the glamorous lifestyle and social life of her sibling. Although Maria was, somehow, inspired by her sister’s manners, feminine qualities, and physical beauty, a part of her despised Jackie for overshadowing her existence.

 

Negative self-consciousness

Self-consciousness is closely related to the self-image of a person, in other words, the way they perceive themselves. Maria’s personality, particularly when she was young, was influenced by numerous factors, which led her to be fully aware of her existence. This trait also caused her to be awkward in social interactions as she began to see herself as ugly, unpopular, and deserving of rejection.

In an interview with Kenneth Harris for The Observer, Maria said that her entire existence is tied to her work as an operatic singer. “I work: therefore I am.” This sentence from Maria’s interview is a clear depiction of how she treated her work as an escape from the depressive emotions she felt while being surrounded by others.  However, an interesting thing about Maria is that she managed to channel this negative energy into doing something remarkable. Despite achieving what other people would consider as perfection, she would not simply let herself enjoy the success and have pride in herself. Instead, she would focus on the things that were yet to be achieved. This kind of determination, especially in a child, is rare to find. Later in her life, she admitted that her entire world revolved around opera.

 

“An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.”

 

Her determination was the reason why her performance was so full of life; she used to mould herself into the role she would perform.

“I don’t know what happens to me on stage. Something else seems to take over.”

 

Negative self-consciousness, such as envy and jealousy, sensed from her rivals and colleagues, sharpened her competitive abilities. Since she always viewed other people as her adversaries and she considered everything to be a fight for domination, she learned to be better than everyone else. Whenever she felt overwhelmed or rejected, she would try even harder to prove herself in front of others. However, most of the time, she was hiding her pain behind the façade of coldness, bitterness, and sometimes happiness, which she showed to the world.



Defensiveness

Defensiveness and denial were the other two significant traits in Maria’s personality. She perceived any criticism, even if constructive, as an act of betrayal and disloyalty. Her scepticism and distrust towards others could be the reason for the lack of close and supportive relationships in her life. Defensiveness in people usually presents itself regarding things they feel the most sensitive about. For Maria, it was undoubtedly her work. She would experience a sense of danger whenever someone tried to form an opinion about her work; this was particularly due to her effort to protect herself from emotional distress of possible failure.

Projection of behaviour was another coping mechanism that Maria used to deal with the emotional and psychological distress she faced during her entire personal and professional life. This was the reason why she always saw her mother, Evangelia, as her enemy. After moving from Athens to New York and being away from Evangelia, she missed the very woman who was both her support and worst enemy. Maria would blame Evangelia for every difficulty or failure so that she could avoid facing her own flaws and mistakes. She despised her mother for being materialistic, primitive, and self-conscious, while denying the fact that she possessed most, if not all, of these qualities.

 

Openness

She had an open personality and loved trying new things. For instance, despite her mother’s disapproval, Maria decided to accept a marriage proposal from, Giovanni Battista Meneghini, who was thirty years older than her. She never deemed anyone’s advice, especially her mother’s, important enough to influence her thinking. Oftentimes, she would ask her mother about certain matters just to explore her feelings about them.

Although self-doubt had become a huge part of her life, she was very confident and outspoken when it came to music. For instance, on one occasion, she criticised Lily Pons for going off-key during a performance as Lucia di Lammermoor at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She bravely stated that she did not care about how important Lily was, and the only thing that mattered to her was the vocal technique she had used. This was the time when Maria discovered her fighting instincts and realised that she needed to be perfect to surpass everyone in a race, which she created in her own mind. She had faith in herself from the very start and she knew that a day would come when her talent was appreciated and celebrated. Her confidence and strength, especially as a woman are evident from her words.

“Women are not pals enough with men, so we must make ourselves indispensable. After all, we have the greatest weapon in our hands by just being women.”

Social Awkwardness

Maria had been socially distant and awkward since the beginning of her international career in Italy. She attended social gatherings and met new people, however, her awkwardness remained persistent. Her life was becoming an act, just like her musical performances. The struggle of pretending to be confident on stage and in social gatherings drained her, both physically and emotionally.

“I would like to be Maria, but there is La Callas who demands that I carry myself with her dignity.”

Frequent social interactions made her silent, irritated, and put her in a bad mood. In an interview, she explained how she needed loneliness to continue being herself.

 

Masking and Emotional Distress

Maria would put up even higher emotional walls around herself when facing failure and distress in her life. It was partly the fault of those who directed hatred and abhorrence towards Maria, and partly her own; the audience often criticised her insolent behaviour on stage. She was booed many times during performances, which caused her to become even more bitter in personal life.

 

Maria’s Need for Approval

Ever since she was young, Maria always relied on the approval from others; she always needed reassurance that her work was perfect. The main reason for this was her inadequate emotional development which resulted in a lack of self-approval. She never thought of herself as an admirable person, which is why her entire life was a desperate struggle to be perfect in the eyes of others.

Another interesting aspect of Maria’s personality was her love and an insatiable appetite for presents. She used to openly express her love for presents and was not shy about asking  her friends to bring her gifts. Her hunger for attention, love, and presents was probably the result of the emotional starvation of her childhood that left a big void in her heart. This is the reason why she struggled throughout her life to fill this space.



Maria’s Parents

 

“There should be a law against that kind of thing (giving a child too much responsibility). A child treated like this grows old before its time. They shouldn’t deprive a child of its childhood!”

 

Right after their marriage, Maria’s parents started to have different opinions on almost everything. Maria’s grandfather was artistically talented and knowledgeable, and so her mother, Evangelia wanted both girls: Maria and Jackie to follow his example. Unfortunately, George, Maria’s father, did not share this interest, which was one of the many reasons they did not get along. They would fight over  what record to play on the gramophone and how George, according to Evangelia, was trying to corrupt her daughter’s taste in music with his “lousy Greek records”.

Another thing which further strained their marriage, as well as  affected their daughters, was his infidelity. George was not shy about being a ladies man and having affairs, while being married to Evangelia. She used to describe her husband:

 

“Like a bee to whom every woman was a flower over which he must hover to seek the sweetness.”

 

Maria Callas with her parents

1.Maria Callas’ mother, Maria, her sister Jacky and her father (1924)

These quarrels and feelings of disdain for one another were the reasons why Maria was close to neither of her parents.

After the Wall Street Crash, Maria’s father had to sell his pharmacy and became a travelling salesperson at a pharmaceutical company to fulfill the basic needs of his family. This is where money became a huge problem and a major reason behind disagreements for Maria’s parents. Evangelia repeatedly reminded George, who was already psychologically tormented because of the huge decline in his income, of his mistake of leaving the prosperous life in Greece. She also forced her husband to pay for the piano lessons for their daughters, Maria and Jackie. George, who deemed these expenses to be unnecessary luxuries and his wife’s empty dreams, would engage in continuous arguments with her about their financial crisis.

These incidents from Maria’s childhood reveal that her parents were so busy chasing their dreams and fighting that they forgot to give their children the childhood they deserved. No doubt, Maria turned out to be an anxious person, who could not help but feel unhappy and deserted and could only find her happiness in food.

Although George was not able to share his daughter’s musical interest, he never tried to build a fatherly bond with his daughter either. Maria thought of him as a caring man with limited interests, whose focus was mainly on his drugstore. He was never supportive of her Opera lessons while the family was living in New York, mainly for financial reasons. His inability to understand his daughter’s dreams and miseries made them even more distant. He lacked empathy for Maria and his response to her failures were mostly cold and frustrating. His coldness and narrow-mindedness were the exact opposite to that of her mother, who was extremely enthusiastic when it came to Maria’s Opera training. However, later in her life, Maria’s disagreements with her mother, compelled her to improve her connection with George. While being married to Meneghini, Maria called her father to accompany her to the performances. The intent behind this gesture was two-fold. Firstly, she wanted to have someone from her family to be proud of her. Secondly, she started considering her father as an enemy of her enemy, her mother, which brought them closer.

 

Relationship with her Mother

Maria spent a significant part of her early life with her mother; it makes Evangelia a crucial person to discuss when it comes to influencing and shaping Maria’s life. Maria’s relationship with her mother, in the eyes of the public, was just an illusion at first. However, later in her career, Maria openly disclosed the bitterness between them and the deception her mother used to get money from her and her rich husband. The glamour and success that they shared on stage during the early phases of Maria’s career were a disguise for the frightening distance between them. Although, it would seem like Evangelia achieved the success and fame she wanted for her daughter, Maria explained that no sense of intimacy had ever existed between the two of them.



 

 

 

 

“Maria was formally, sometimes ostentatiously kind, as she might be to a distant relative, a cousin perhaps whom she had known for years and was fond of only at arm’s length.”

 

Despite this distance, Maria’s inner child still longed for an affection from her mother. On one occasion, Maria painfully confessed to her that she wanted a normal life with children, whom Evangelia could raise for her. It showed the real pain that was hiding behind the indifferent attitude and charm of a celebrity who inspired thousands of people.

Another important thing to note is that no one, including Maria, took these occasional emotional outbursts seriously. It was not easy for Maria to disclose her feelings and let people think of her as vulnerable. As far as other people in her life were concerned, they cared more about the happiness of her audience than that of hers. This was the reason most of her fears and anxieties went unacknowledged and unexpressed, giving rise to her anger issues.

After her marriage to Meneghini, Maria became distant towards her mother; and the glory that Maria once shared with Evangelia was then reserved for her husband. Evangelia’s blunt letters, cursing her daughter for not helping her financially and accusing her of being selfish, drove them away further. For Evangelia, Maria’s life was a dream and she desperately wanted to become a part of it. Maria’s letter to her godfather demonstrated that her family only considered her as a source of financial help.

 

“I beg you not to repeat this Leon—but my mother wrote a letter cursing etc. as is her usual way (she thinks) of obtaining things… believe me I did and I will do my best for them but I will not permit them to exaggerate. I have a future to think of and also I would like a child of my own. Please, love me and believe in me—we are so much alike.”

 

Maria’s words clearly depict her need for emotional support. She cared for her family; however, their response and expectations were both irritating and depressing for her. The pent-up frustration from, what felt to Maria like a futile career, combined with the hurt she endured from reading her mother’s letters, caused her to explode and project all her anger onto Evangelia. She made it clear that she would not be responsible for financially supporting her sister and mother anymore. These letters depict the bitter and joyless side of life that Maria tried to glorify in front of others, both on and off stage.

An important point to note here is that Maria, who was notorious for being self-indulgent herself, would become furious due to her mother’s selfishness. As a result, she cut off all ties with her, despite her friends’ advice.

 

 

Maria’s Godfather

The only meaningful and trustworthy relationship she had was with her godfather, Leonidas Lantzounis. It was evident from the letters she used to write to him that he was the only man in her life, a father figure, with whom she was comfortable enough to open her heart to. In her letters, she also explained how unhappy she was with her blood relatives and how Lantzounis had given her the very support one would expect from their family. Lantzounis, despite not knowing anything about music and opera, was incredibly supportive of Maria and would do anything to encourage her, unlike her father.

On an occasion, she wrote a letter to Lantzounis expressing her connection with him,

 

“Dear Leo, it’s true that our lives are very similar. You are married to a younger woman, I to an older man—both happily married. We both have become famous, you a doctor, I a singer— both worked hard and really earned their happiness and success. Am I right?”

 

Hence, even after achieving everything, she always remembered to make Dr Leo a part of her happiness. He was the only man, with whom she was able to share her true emotions without  fearing hostility or criticism.



Maria’s Childhood

 

“I was always too mature for my age – and not very happy. I had no young friends. I wish I could go back to those days. If I could only live it all again, how I would play and enjoy other girls. What a fool I was.”

 

Maria Callas childhood

Little Maria Callas

 

Vasily, Maria and Jackie’s brother, died at the age of three due to a typhoid epidemic in Meligala. In 1923, Evangelia and George, who were at that time expecting a boy that could ease their pain and longing for Vasily, were shocked by the birth of a girl. From the very beginning, she was a disappointment to her parents, who wished fora son to fill their empty hearts. Dr Lantzounis was the only person who was there for her when she came to this world and remained by her side until the very end.

Seen from the above paragraphs, it can be concluded that Maria’s childhood was far from a fairy-tale. To fill the void of her unmet emotional needs, she turned towards over-eating. Foods like bread, fried potatoes, saganaki, ice cream, sweets, cakes, and macaronada were among her favourites. From a young age, she started participating in singing competitions, plays, and concerts at her school. At the age of 11, she was already gaining an audience by singing La Paloma at an amateur talent contest on the Mutual Radio Network. However, this early fame came at the expense of her childhood. She was deprived of the love and attention a young girl needs while entering her teenage years. For Maria, love was never unconditional; as she explained later while talking about her early life experiences:

 

 

 

 

“Only when I was singing did I feel loved,”

She was vulnerable and spent most of her childhood unhappy and unsatisfied. Due to her unhealthy eating habits, she was a plump kid with an awkward personality. She was not a young girl who could conform to the societal norms of beauty and charm. It was nearly impossible for a child with this kind of personality to make friends or to have good memories of school. The painful experiences from her school life reinforced her behaviours, and as a result, those attitudes became a part of her personality.

Her pain and misery she endured are evident from Maria’s clear-cut confession of how much she hated the world as a child.

 

“I hated school; I hated the world.”

 

Leonidas Lantzounis

Leonidas Lantzounis

 

She would explain on various occasions that life is cruel and parents should not hide this fact from their children. Considering her circumstances, it is not very surprising that Maria was a victim of self-doubt and self-pity throughout her life. She was seemingly unaware of the word friendship. Except for Dr Lantzounis, there was no one in her life with whom she could share her thoughts. The only formal education she had before she left New York for Greece was up to 8th grade, which reinforced her self-doubt, uncomfortableness, and clumsiness. She used to blame her mother for not letting her get an academic degree because of her passion for music; this was yet another reason for despising her “worst enemy”.

Th


e loneliness she felt as a child, who could not fit anywhere in the world, was the reason why she grew up to be a person with both explosive rage and extreme enthusiasm. Her miseries, instead of turning her into a demanding and spoilt child, made her into a person who had a great faith in success. She understood that she had to make herself visible and strong to fight back everyone who despised her. Her ultimate weapon for this battle was her majestic voice.

 

Relationship with sister

Callas with her sister Jackie

Callas with her sister Jackie

 

 

Maria’s elder sister Jackie had always been the centre of her parent’s affection. Compared to her perfect sister, Maria was always considered a less attractive, less accomplished, and less likely to succeed in married life. She lacked the traditional feminine characteristics, which further pushed her towards self-doubt and insecurities. She was so intimidated by her sister that she gave up on the thought of improving her appearance. The sadness she endured while living in her sister’s shadow filled her up with bitterness, which never went away, even after growing up. This sense of failure stayed with her entire life. Although her professional development silenced her, the bitterness and anger she suppressed created havoc inside her.

 

Maria’s Early Life in Greece

“I am personally incapable of enjoying what I have done well because I see so magnified the things I could have done better.”

Evangelia knew that they had to leave New York if Maria was ever to realise her dream. Her Greek roots and the fact that she would be able to provide Maria with the best teachers compelled her to go back to where her heart belonged. Maria, before setting out for Greece, got an opportunity to sing at her graduation ceremony. Hence, the only true feeling she had at that time was the happiness of singing in front of people. She had always been an outsider at school and, therefore, was untouched by the decision of moving to another country or even leaving her father behind.

 

Greece was a turning point in her life, which brought many good and bad lessons for her. She met new people and teachers who transformed her life and made her into a professional soprano. Her first teacher was Maria Trivella, who taught her to be confident and helped her grow and develop her natural talent. In Trivella, Maria found the support, encouragement, and reassurance she always needed to function properly. The supervision encouraged Maria to work as hard as she could. Her passion was to become different than everyone else and establish a unique persona, and Trivella’s knowledge was the key to achieve it.

 

Maria Callas and Elvira de Hidalgo

Maria Callas – Greece (1957) with Elvira de Hidalgo

The next prominent person who came into her life as her teacher, was Elvira de Hidalgo. It was around the time when the World War II broke and her sister Jackie became engaged to her companion. While her family was celebrating their elder daughter’s engagement, the 15-year-old Maria was going through the same loneliness and distress she had always been. During this low point in Maria’s life, Hidalgo came as an angel in disguise. Hidalgo was both an experienced teacher and a mother figure for Maria; Elvira taught her all the things her mother should have taught her. During her time with Hidalgo, Maria learned to dress well and walk properly, both on stage and in real life. It was a notable achievement for Maria since she was never interested in making herself presentable to others.

 

Although Maria had loathed her mother all her life, Hidalgo’s mentorship made her hate Evangelia even more. She started looking for support and reassurance from Hidalgo, while considering her mother evil and wicked. It shows that Maria’s tendency to hate her mother and many others was due to her perception of good and evil in the world. For her, everything was either black or white, whether it was a friendship, or a romantic relationship. Except for Hidalgo, who constantly remained in Maria’s good books, almost every other person fell victim to her narrow spectrum of goodness and badness. In Maria’s eyes, Hidalgo was the only family that mattered and her love was the only thing she cared for. Although her family was always there to celebrate Maria’s success, she would prefer to share it with her beloved teacher.

 

As Hidalgo’s personal student, Maria got the opportunity to enter Athens’s leading conservatoire without any tuition fee. Hidalgo, who herself was an admirer of Maria, helped her unleash the hidden potential and capacities, which Maria never thought she would be able to achieve A significant point to ponder here is that all Evangelia needed to do was to provide her daughter with motherly affection and emotional uplift to achieve her dream. She thought that she provided Maria with everything she could; however, she failed to give her the most important thing a child needs- a home. This was the reason why Maria preferred to spend her time working at the conservatoire than staying at home, and trying to suppress her isolation.

 

 

Resentment and Jealousy

 

“It’s a terrible thing to go through life thinking that you have a rock on your side when you haven’t.”

 

Like most people struggling to make their way to success, Maria also faced resentment and jealousy, not only from her colleagues but also from senior opera players and members of her conservatoire. At a young and tender age of 17, Maria was made a permanent member of Athens Opera, which was a big achievement for her. However, her success attracted envy and jealousy from most of the Opera’s members. Their instincts of self-preservation forced them to perceive Maria as an immediate threat to their superiority and career.

Ever since her teenage years, Maria was subjected to heavy criticism from both senior and female sopranos. While some of them thought that Maria’s upper register had “too much metal” in it, others complained about her disruptive top and her unconventional way of singing. Her seniors at Athens Opera were convinced that Maria’s flaws were not curable, as teaching can only refine natural talent, which Maria was lacking. The resentment did not end here, as she faced similar criticism throughout her career. Those unnecessary attacks on her capabilities and doubts about her talent were the reasons why she grew up to be a defensive person, who despised every honest opinion.  However, the resentment was also a source of motivation for her, especially later in her career.

 

“When my enemies stop hissing, I shall know I’m slipping.”

 

Maria’s extremely competitive nature also might have been a result of this kind of destructive criticism. Her resentment for her colleagues and competitors likely began when she noticed them treating her as a threat. She might have been born with cynicism, as claimed by many people who were close to her; however, the hate and spite projected at her during the early stage of her career strengthened and fortified her behaviour. She learned it from her seniors that supporting colleagues is a rather strange concept, and it is more useful to bring others down in order to achieve dominance.

While the hatred from the members of the Athens’ conservatoire reinforced some of her negative attitudes, it also brought out her fighting instincts and helped her become a strong, powerful, and passionate woman. One such instance, which includes both extreme envy and hostility, taught Maria the life lesson of overthrowing the opponents in order to replace them. Maria was due to temporarily replace an elderly Soprano, who openly opposed Maria as a backup. The senior member went to great lengths by sending her husband to stop Maria from performing her role in Tosca. However, Maria bravely fought the husband by scratching his face and went on stage despite the bruises she received from the incident. She was not ashamed of those injuries; instead, she wore them like a medal to remind everyone that her success was inevitable and she was ready to face any challenge or hurdle in her way. Later on, in 1961, she expressed the reason behind her encouragement and valour.

“When you are very young and on the threshold of a career you have all the confidence in the world. There is nothing you feel you couldn’t tackle and do splendidly”

 

Resentment in Maria’s Career

Callas and Tebaldi

Callas and Tebaldi

Resentment and jealousy in Maria’s life did not stop, even after she became a huge public figure. Enemies and conspirators remained by her side all her life. For instance, on the opening night of Tosca in Rio, it came to Maria’s knowledge that “anti-Callas” propaganda was broadcasted against her. Before she could do anything about it, her contract was terminated by the director of the Opera on account of “an unfavourable reaction from the audience.” Maria, who knew that this cancellation was intentional and planned, was badly hurt.

It is understandable for an artist going through such difficult times to turn into a frustrated, angry, and resentful person. As she advanced in her career, she began to see the world with the same resentment and hate that was once projected onto her. The rivalry between Maria and another opera singer, Renata Tebaldi, is an infamous example in this regard. Maria openly expressed that there is no comparison between her talents and Tebaldi’s work. Maria’s hate was also extended to other notable names in the Opera industry, including Franco Corelli and Leonard Bernstein. Being extremely competitive, she had always seen her colleagues and co-workers as enemies. Such behaviour was the reason why many people considered Maria as “extremely full of herself,” arrogant and egotistical, as below.

 

“Don’t talk to me about rules, dear. Wherever I stay I make the goddam rules.”

 

Relationship with Colleagues 

Maria Callas and colleagues during the early 50's

Maria Maria Callas and colleagues during the early 50’sCallas and colleagues during the early 50’s

 

The internal conflict was not entirely Maria’s fault. She was well aware of the way she was perceived by her colleagues. She convinced herself that her rivals accused her of aggressiveness because they were not able to reach her level. She repeatedly explained that, unlike other artists, she had no connections within the industry; as a result, all her accomplishments were due to hard work and strong will power. Maria’s poor relationships with her colleagues were among things that continued to deteriorate her public image every now and then. An article from Time magazine highlighted how her colleagues hated the very diva whom the public loved. Although much of this hatred was due to their wariness of her work, Maria’s supercilious and blunt attitude also played a huge role in reinforcing this sentiment. She was heavily criticized for self-indulgence and an unprofessional behaviour.

 

Maria’s Experience with War

 

“It’s a very terrible thing to be Maria Callas, because it’s a question of trying to understand something you can never really understand.”

 

In April 1941, Nazi forces invaded Greece, which increased the tension and anxiety among the citizens. Athens was soon under German occupation, and as a result, all public offices, schools, and theaters were closed. It was a period of torment for Maria, as it deprived her of the only thing she valued and loved. Although she kept herself busy with church and other small chores, her mind would still roam around music lessons and practice. It was her enthusiasm for music that compelled her to visit Hidalgo’s house every day during the curfew. She did not let the Nazi restrictions to come in the way of escaping  the miserable life she was living.

 

Her Rebellious Side

It is a well-known fact that “war brings out the worst and the best in people.” For Maria, it was her rebellious nature that came out as soon as the German and Italian troops stepped into Athens. She did not care for the curfew and continued her struggle of relentlessly pursuing music despite the circumstances. In 1941, Germany announced further restrictions and forbade the citizens from producing noise whether in a public or a private place. As a response, Maria dragged her piano to the balcony and sang at the top of her voice, as if she was not afraid of the soldiers. She would get attention and appreciation from Italian soldiers, who would wait in the street for her magical voice.

War brought out another aspect of her personality which was a reflection of her trying to compensate for her weaknesses by asserting control over others. However, it is important to note that for people like Maria Callas, rebellion is not an act of going against the rules. As explained earlier, even as a child, she was never demanding or pushing. Instead, she used to do what she thought was the right thing. Maria believed that her voice and talent should not be restrained in any manner, so she refused to give in to the authority of the forces. Luckily, her compassion, intelligence, and admirable enthusiasm, combined with her majestic voice melted her audience, including the soldiers.

 

Maria’s Weapon

It seems that Maria inherited her rebellious nature from her mother. During war, Evangelia gave shelter to two British prisoners, committing a crime punishable by death. This incident was also notable for Maria, as she learned how to use her voice as a weapon to win over the sentiments of her audience. When Italian soldiers came and searched the house for the prisoners, Maria started singing Tosca as a distraction for the soldiers, in order to save her and her family’s life. She did not have the conventional beauty to impress people, but her certainly saved lives that day. Later on, she admitted it frequently that music was her passion. Unlike her mother, who was after fame and money, Maria was capable of understanding the meaning behind her work.

 

“I don’t need the money, dear. I work for art.”

 

War Friend

Not only her voice was a powerful weapon to take down her enemies, but also a great gift that helped her earn friendships. Her first friend from the war was an Italian soldier, who used to listen to her songs and bring food rations for her. For Maria, who was never loved unconditionally as a child, receiving gifts was a new and exciting concept. She used to eat food rations alone. It shows that Maria endeavoured to cut off her family from her personal life. Her hunger for food, attention, and affection made her a self-centred person, a trait that gradually became a permanent part of her personality.

 

War Turmoil

The WWII and the following events were undeniably traumatizing for Maria; however, the war between ELAS and communist groups in 1944 surpassed any situation she had ever faced in terms of severity and turmoil. During the war, Athens was under siege for days and people were left stranded in their houses unable to meet the basic needs. Maria, along with her mother was also trapped inside their home with no way of heating their house during cold nights. The only food they had was the Red Cross ration, which was not enough for people to survive. The twenty days Maria spent with her mother in constant fear, listening to the screams of injured and dying soldiers, were an experience that left a long-lasting impression. Maria, who was an embodiment of determination and drive, lost her will while being imprisoned in her own house.  Luckily, the British soldiers, who happened to be their devotees, saved Maria and her mother and transferred them to the park hotel safely.

 

Maria’s Return to New York

 

“I am not an angel and do not pretend to be. That is not one of my roles. But I am not the devil either. I am a woman and a serious artist, and I would like so to be judged.”

 

Maria received many small honorary achievements throughout her young life. However, it was not until April 1944 that she gained international publicity and fame. In the Tiefland premiere, Maria performed an opera written by a Glaswegian, who identified himself as a German. That day brought her the two most memorable moments of her life, a standing ovation and a cover story in German papers.  This moment compelled her to think about her future for the first time in her life. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, she was quite content to pass the control over her career to her mother, family, and teachers. However, this success urged her to act on her instincts and leave for the United States.

Her decision to leave Greece cannot be solely attributed to her 1944 achievement. The occupation of Athens, her emotional deprivation, and the civil war played a valuable role in it as well. Greece might have seemed like an escape to Maria at first; nonetheless, the issues she had with her mother and sister were persistent. She was still an emotionally unstable and dependent youngster who was unable to support herself or make her own choices. Her decision to leave for New York was an effort to leave behind her sister, mother, and colleagues and make a fresh start with her career. Once again, she did not listen to her mother’s disapproval and did what she thought was best for her. This moment holds great importance, as it taught her to take full responsibility for her choices. She, once again, rejected the advice of her relatives and decided to move, despite knowing that she had no friends in New York.

 

The first prominent change after coming to New York was an immense increase in her food intake, and subsequently her weight gain. As explained earlier, Maria loved food and probably used it as a coping mechanism to deal with the worries life threw at her. She was an emotional eater who used to consume varieties of food to deal with her stress and undealt emotional issues. However, moving to a new place somehow altered her personality in a good way, as she began to develop skills like cooking and decorating her home. She started cooking and bringing food to her father’s drugstore. This caring and loving side of Maria was the result of the freedom and self-reliance that she experienced for the first time in her life.

 

 Rejections

It is easy to assume that a star with such a mesmerising voice and charismatic personality would have never faced rejections. However, as mentioned earlier, Callas’ life was far from a fairy tale. She was used to rejections from society from a very young age. At first, she was rejected for her unconventional looks and physique. As she grew up, many opera artists started hating and rejecting her, because of her ruthless determination to overcome her competitors. However, the biggest challenge and humility she faced in this regard was when she returned to New York from Athens with big dreams to advance her career.

She had become a famous figure in Greece; however, the opera houses in New York were unaware of her talents, which led to several rejections, one after another. Nicola Moscona was the first professional tragedy that Maria faced after returning to the United States. Moscona had already witnessed her performance in Athens and acknowledged her efforts at that time. However, he refused to meet with Maria in America, which came as a shock for her. The next misfortune was her encounter with Giovanni Martinelli. After listening to Maria’s voice, Martinelli told her that she needed to learn more about Opera to fit inside the US opera industry. His remarks were enough to shatter Maria’s ego, and they discourage her for a while. However, Maria, as always, coped with this difficulty and continued on her journey to make a difference in her life.

These rejections were a source of knowledge for Maria; after all, they transformed her and entirely shaped her personality. She learned that if she wanted to be successful, she had to let go of the feelings of hurt and pain. The year 1956 was a new era for her, as she started it by promising herself that she would face every disappointment and misery in life heads on. During the same time, she befriended two like-minded people, Eddie Bagarozy and his wife Louise Caselotti, who made her journey a little easier with their companionship.

There was a point in her life when she felt extremely discouraged and was on verge of self-destruction. For instance, Gaetano Merola, the manager of the San Francisco Opera, told Maria to go back to Italy and come back to him after making a career there. Not only were his words discouraging, but also extremely humiliating for an artist who was merely seeking recognition for her talent. Her response to Merola was quite blunt; however, well deserving and justified. She said,

 

“Thank you, but once I have made my career in Italy I will no longer need you.”

 

This legendary reply reflects the personality of a woman that Maria Callas would become later in her life. There was a time when Maria demonstrated a professional intuition and displayed her ability to make an informed decision by judging the pros and cons of the scenario. The general manager of the metropolitan opera, Edward Johnson, offered her to perform Beethoven’s Fidelio and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. However, despite the unparalleled opportunity, she refused to sign the contract for two reasons. Firstly, she did not want to spoil the German masterpiece by translating it into English. Secondly, she weighed 180 pounds when she was offered the role. She believed that performing the role of a fragile teenage girl with her weight would be an injustice. Hence, for Maria, her intuition and fate were far more important than logic.

 

Physical Transformation

 

“My first instinct was to say that the face is too fat and I can’t stand it, because I needed the chin for expression in certain very hard phrases, cruel phrases or tense phrases. And I felt—as the woman of the theater that I was and am—that I needed these necklines and the chinlines to be very thin and very pronounced.”

 

The people around her, as well as the press, often times targeted her appearance and shamed her for her weight. The harsh view from the critics caused her to go through an emotional havoc. For instance, a critic compared the legs of the Aida sung by Maria at the Arena of Verona, with that of an elephant. As Maria recalled later in her life,

 

“I cried bitter tears for many days when I read the article.”

 

Eventually, she became a victim of a low self-esteem due to this horrible and cruel behaviour. For her, everything that she was facing, headaches, sickness, dizziness, was due to her excess weight. Anxiousness, embarrassment, and social discomfort, which were already a part of Maria’s personality, were taking a serious toll on Maria’s life due to the continuous body shaming.

It was the time when she decided to transform herself into a person of her dreams. Another determination behind her weight loss decision was linked to her work. As Maria explained herself, she needed a pronounced and thin chin and necklines for better performance and expression of hard phrases. Maria, whose voice and expressions were rare to find, was frustrated by the fact that she would play beautiful young women, like Medea, while over-weight and unable to move around easily. It was no surprise that Maria had developed a mounting anger, depression, stress, and social anxiety as her career advanced. The desire to attain perfection was somehow overwhelming her mental health.

Between 1952 and 1954, Maria underwent a mythical transformation by losing twenty-eight kilograms. On the one hand, this weight loss helped her to become a model to fight back the critics. On the other hand, she was able to portray the characters she used to play before. Her new physique and the spellbound makeover turned many heads, which was a great deal for Maria who always longed for attention and love from people.

It depicts that Maria was a perfectionist who, even after so many years, was still unable to leave what others thought of her behind. In an effort to become flawless, she exposed herself to further frustrations that shattered her inner peace further. Even after losing a lot of weight, she still was  not “beautiful enough” in her eyes; she was never satisfied. Even after giving up on her love for food to become a beautiful woman according to societal standards, she still considered herself ugly. Her frustration was quite close to the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder, which is usually triggered by childhood neglect, perfectionism, and negative experiences in life. She was convinced that the beauty others saw in her was due to her expensive attires, jewellery, and the makeup/hairdos. Despite all the glitter and glamour, she still felt empty inside.



Romantic Relationships

 

“There are not very many men who can be near me. It’s a sort of handicap to be famous. Also I have a very active mind, a strong personality, and I might frighten real men away.”

 

Giovanni Battista Meneghini 

Meneghini and Callas

Meneghini and Callas

After facing several rejections in New York, Maria finally had the opportunity to sing Gioconda at the Verona festival. Meneghini, an industrialist from Verona and an opera fan, was her first love interest, whom she met during her visit there. He was the first man who managed to inspire Maria with his stable nature and the fact that he was fascinated by her. As Maria claimed a few years after meeting him, “I knew he was it five minutes after I met him.”

Meneghini provided Maria with the love, warmth, and security that she sought all her life from her family. He made Maria the centre of his attention and became a constant source of reassurance. Maria, who faced negativity, jealousy, resentment, and hostility almost her entire life, was overjoyed by the fact that Meneghini considered her a pure genius and the most talented woman in the world. She, for the first time, defied her nature and welcomed the gentle and true criticism from her first love.  Maria asked her mother for an opinion on marrying Meneghini, but she disapproved of it because of their 30-year age gap. However, Maria had already made up her mind and, just like before, she was consulting her mother in order to explore her own feelings.

Just like Evangelia, Meneghini’s family was also against their marriage, as they thought Maria was an artist only interested in the riches of an old man. On the other hand, Evangelia feared for Maria’s career. However, the only thing that she failed to realise was that Maria also needed the same devotion from her. Maria’s life and her desires were a priority for no one. This was the reason why it took several years for Maria to realise that she had forgotten to live and enjoy her life.

The heights of Maria’s glamour and career were turning Meneghini into a petty, bland, and bad-tempered person. He was both overwhelmed and overshadowed by the success of his young and talented wife. To remain in the picture, Meneghini played the role of his wife’s protector and a negotiator of her dealings. If Maria had a bad encounter with anyone during her work, Meneghini would ensure that it was remembered.

Maria’s weight loss transformation turned her into an attractive young woman who caught the eyes of many men, not just as a great singer but as a beautiful and elegant young lady as well. However, her relationship with her husband lacked the spark, as Meneghini focused more on being her manager than her significant other. Life with Meneghini did not remain the same, as it turned out, that he was not in love with her, but with what she represented. Maria, later in her interviews, disclosed that there was nothing special about her husband; however, she continued to stay married to him in hopes that there was love between them.

 

Married Life Conflicts

As explained earlier, masking feelings was a huge part of Maria’s personality, at least in the later stage of her life. Despite the differences with her husband, she always used to pretend that she was leading a happy and content marriage. On multiple occasions, she would give public statements to portray her marriage as a perfect fairy tale. For instance, she said at a celebration dinner, “If I am the voice, he is the soul.” The statements like this one were no doubt a cover-up for the underlying conflicts and showed how good Maria was at hiding her sorrow behind a smile. These words also depict the Maria’s dreams, which were full of love, sincerity, and loyalty. However, the reality was far from the fairy tales that she used to tell in front of the press.



Aristotle Onassis

Aristotle Onassis was a huge chapter of Maria’s life. When Maria met him in 1957, she was still married to Meneghini. Onassis, an industrialist, and business magnate, was able to create a great first impression on Maria, which is the reason behind her inclination towards his charm. His gestures of love and surprises used to mesmerize the little child in Maria who was always fond of receiving gifts and unconditional love. While Maria was staying in a hotel for a charity gala concert in Paris, she received a bunch of red roses and wishes written in Greek from Onassis, which compelled her to admit that he was a very romantic man. At that time, she was still married to Meneghini, who noticed the change of tone in Maria’s voice upon receiving the flowers.

Callas and Onasis

Callas and Onasis

What Maria liked the most about him was the same thing that she liked in Meneghini. He was devoted to her, despite his lack of interest in opera. He was always ready to change his plans according to Maria’s shows and made sure that he was there in the audience. He cheered her success as if it was his own. For instance, after the successful performance of Medea at Covent Garden, Onassis organized a grand party in her honour. He was always ready to pour all of his energy into serving his most prestigious guest. Maria loved the fact that she was the focus of his love, attention, and energy. Onassis did everything to make her feel the centre of the universe. The hospitality, care, and luxury she experienced on Onassis’ private yacht made Maria feel like living in a fairy tale.

Another thing that made Onassis unique in Maria’s eyes was his open discussion with her regarding his past romantic endeavours. The fact that Maria was the last woman that Onassis was proud to have in his life used to flatter her. Onassis was ready to give her anything she wished for in spite of being with Meneghini. Most of all, both Onassis and Maria were warriors and survivors of their vicious past. Maria, who used to fight her demons alone, finally found a person who shared a deep connection with her and understood her personality. Meeting him changed Maria’s life. A woman, who was once bitter, exhausted, selfish, and furious, had become passionate, tender, and loving during her time with Onassis. Maria, for the first time in her life, felt the beautiful sentiments of loving and being loved by someone.

 

Once again, Maria listened to her intuition and decided to leave Meneghini despite his threats, accusations, and pleas. Although it was not easy for Maria to tell her husband that she wanted to leave him, the positivity she felt with Aristotle was worth the distress. As Maria claimed later on, “when I met Aristo, so full of life, I became a different woman.” After meeting Onassis, she became less aggressive and happier than she ever was. One of the reasons for this happiness was the way Onassis treated her in front of the press. In his initial statements about their relationship, Onassis revealed that he felt honoured to be loved by a woman like Madame Callas. As for Maria, who was never loved except for her singing, the feeling of being loved despite her career was a new and beautiful thing.

Maria’s love affair with Aristotle Onassis also brought out the worst in  people that used to be close to her. Meneghini, in several of his statements, claimed that Maria was ungrateful forf his favours and stabbed him in the back. On the other hand, Evangelia also gave harsh opinions regarding how she and Meneghini were the victims of Maria’s disloyalty and how she was going to take revenge on Onassis. This account of events clearly demonstrates the fact that Maria’s contempt for her mother was somewhat justified.

A Break from Singing

Onassis brought about several drastic changes in Maria’s life, among which, the most prominent one was a break in her career. She was just 42 at that moment, and many people blamed Onassis for abandoning her career. However, it is important to note that Maria had already realized that she needed a break before meeting Onassis. She always wanted an escape from her life, away from all obligations and exhaustion. She wanted to get rid of the fear of unattainable achievements and continuous disappointment in her own successes; Onassis merely enabled that escape by providing her with his love and care. With Onassis, she was able to find inner harmony, which she had never experienced throughout her life. She said on an occasion “I want to live, just like a normal woman, with children, a home, a dog.” It shows how her singing career had taken away her right to live a normal, peaceful, and private life. Maria explained in an interview that changing her life and career was not difficult for her since she did it for the man she loved. It was an entirely new aspect of her personality. She suddenly became a selfless giver and a confident woman; however, the bitterness and unhappiness never left her. In 1960, when Maria announced an intention to marry Onassis, he refused and mentioned that it must have been joke on her part. Onassis’s marriage to Jackie Kennedy was a great disappointment for her. However, she still acknowledged his importance in her life.

 

A Drift in Maria’s Personality

Maria Callas personality

The pain and joy that she experienced with Onassis polished her work when she started singing again in 1973. The love and the hurt had not only made her into a mature woman but also helped her to enhance her expression with deep emotions. Although Onassis was just another chapter in her life , in the end, the time they spent together helped her to reveal the other facets of her personality. Aristotle’s children loathed Maria for being “another woman” in their father’s life. A woman, who was used to the hate and envy of critics, press, and the audience, was lost in this scenario. The love for Onassis changed her entirely, from a vicious monster to a fragile woman with pronounced femininity.

Soon after getting together she became a fan of Aristotle and started adopting his interests in politics and tourism. Maria, a woman who was egotistical and whose world revolved only around her career, had become more interested in making friends and opening up to others. Among Onassis’ friends that she won during their relationship, Panaghis Vergottis and Maggie van Zuylen were the closest to her. It would be right to say that Onassis opened other doors for Maria, which led her to love and admiration from loyal friends. She used to share her thoughts with them, especially Vergottis, on more or less every matter. Maggie was Maria’s first friend with whom she was capable of talking about her private life. She even taught Maria how to grab the attention of Onassis by publicizing her unfaithfulness. The fact that Maria acted on her advice shows that her love for Onassis did not diminish for a single day.  On the other hand, Onassis’s love was becoming toxic, by running their relationship solely on his terms. He would seek comfort in her arms, whenever he was exhausted from his personal life, and she would happily take him back. Maria had become understanding and tolerant; however, the change in her personality did not cure her lifelong sadness.

During her life, all she ever experienced were joyless affairs, loveless marriage, inner emptiness, and envy. Even though, she still managed to maintain the public persona of a determined and strong woman who faces every challenge with immense bravery. In an interview with Mike Wallace, three years before she died of a heart attack, Maria revealed that she was still friends with Onassis and still loved him. She always remembered him well, which taught her many things about herself and her potential. For a person like Maria, it was surprising that she had such an immense respect for a lover who decided to marry another woman over her.

 

Maria Callas’ Death

 

“First I lost my voice, then I lost my figure and then I lost Onassis.”

Maria’s undying love for Aristotle Onassis was the reason she lost hope for her life. The woman, who used to face every challenge with determination, finally gave in after her lover passed away. She isolated herself in her apartment in Paris to live with her sorrows and sufferings. Her will to live and survival instincts slowly started to diminish. During this time, the only meaningful contact she had was with Dr Leo, her godfather, and the only constant confidant.

Her loneliness became absolute, both internal and external, during her final years. She stopped singing and only talked to a few friends. However, she was still reluctant to share her emotions with anyone except for Dr Leo. Her sorrows were doubled during this time when she heard of the deaths of Luchino Visconti, a man she dearly loved, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. In 1977, the strong and “stone-hearted” woman finally died of a heart attack, confined insider her home. Many considered her to be a cold and heartless woman. However, in the end, she proved that she only had a broken heart after all.

 

Meyer Briggs Personality Type

Considering the aforementioned personality traits, it can be concluded that the personality type of Maria Callas, according to the Meyer Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), is INFJ.

INFJ stands for introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. The people characterized by this personality trait tend to be idealistic and sensitive to their surroundings. The rationale for connecting INFJ with Maria Callas’ personality is illustrated below:

Introversion

Maria Callas had a closed personality, who rarely opened up to anyone regarding her feelings and emotions. In an interview with Mike Wallace, she explained that she did not need people around her to feel happy. She further revealed that she had an entire world of her own insider her and she was never afraid of loneliness. The evidence from various sources also suggests that social interactions, parties, and meetings used to exhaust her. Even after the death of the love of her life, she preferred to lock herself in her apartment and suffer alone.

 

 

Intuition

Intuition refers to the ability to act decisively in face of a challenge or a critical situation. Throughout her life, Maria based most of her decisions, if not all, on her intuition. She used to pay extreme attention to her instincts and internal insight, which means that her primary cognitive function was an introverted intuition. Moreover, once her perception/intuition regarding anything was built, she would rarely give it up. For instance, her opera instructor, Hidalgo, insisted that she should go to Italy to start a career; however, Maria’s persistent attitude forced her to follow her intuition and go to the US instead. Her perseverance was the reason why she was seen as a rigid and stubborn person.

She was capable of seeing the bigger picture, which helped her climb the stairs of glorious success. However, intuition often caused her pain and suffering. For instance, despite knowing about Onassis’ decision to marry Jackie Kennedy and keep her (Maria) as a mistress, she continued loving and supporting him. She stayed with him until his death regardless of his toxic behaviour.

 

 

Feeling

Maria’s life was largely impacted by her feelings and emotions. Throughout her life, she made a lot of decisions based on how she felt, instead of depending on objective facts and advice. For instance, she decided to stop singing because of Onassis, without considering its consequences. She was extremely impulsive when it came to making certain decisions. For instance, when she found out that she was in love with Onassis, she suddenly decided to leave Meneghini without thinking twice about  her future with Onassis might look like.

Another trait in Maria’s personality, which coincides with the INFJ type, was her inability to express emotions openly. However, the combination of extraverted feelings and introverted intuition demonstrates why Maria was able to express her emotions in front of her closest friends.

Another feature of extraverted feeling is an intensified awareness of the feelings of other people, which often frightens these people that they might disappoint others. The fear of failure and disappointment was prevalent in Maria’s life for several reasons, one of which was her ability to sense the emotions of people around her.

 

 

 

Judging

This personality trait suits Maria Callas’ personality the most. It refers to the preference of people regarding order, neatness, and perfection. Maria Callas was an idealistic and perfectionist woman, who could not tolerate any flaw in either work or personality. This was the reason behind her resentment and fear of negative criticism. Her ambition for perfection is evident from her weight loss journey, which she underwent to become the perfect embodiment of the roles she used to perform.

 

 

Maria’s Strengths and Weaknesses (MBTI)

Strengths:

  • She was reserved to an extent that the public was unaware of what was going on in her private life
  • She was highly creative and determined
  • She used to value people that had a close and meaningful relationship with her
  • She was a perfectionist
  • She was empathetic; however, her ability to understand others’ intentions overshadowed this ability most of the time.

Weaknesses:

  • She often used to become overly sensitive, especially when things went against her will
  • She was difficult to understand, sometimes even by her loved ones
  • She had unrealistically high expectations for everyone working with her
  • She was extremely stubborn and resented her competitors
  • She resented confrontations, especially from her audience and public.
  • Most of her decisions were based on personal concerns

 

Maria Callas mottos and quotes:

 

  1. An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.
  2. ART is domination. It’s making people think that for that precise moment in time there is only one way, one voice. Yours.
  3. Don’t come to me with your troubles. I have to work for my money and you are young enough to work too. If you can’t make enough money to live on you can jump out of the window or drown yourself.
  4. Don’t talk to me about rules, dear. Wherever I stay I make the god dam rules.
  5. Don’t talk to me about rules, dear. Wherever I stay I make the goddam rules.
  6. First I lost my voice, then I lost my figure and then I lost Onassis.
  7. First I lost weight, then I lost my voice, and now I’ve lost Onassis.
  8. Good teachers make the best of a pupil’s means; great teachers foresee a pupil’s ends.
  9. I admire Tebaldi’s tone; it’s beautiful – also some beautiful phrasing. Sometimes, I actually wish I had her voice.
  10. I am not an angel and do not pretend to be. That is not one of my roles. But I am not a devil, either. I am a woman and a serious artist, and I would like so to be judged.
  11. I belong to the givers. I want to give a little happiness even if I haven’t had much for myself. Music has enriched my life and, hopefully – through me, a little – the public’s. If anyone left an opera house feeling more happy and at peace, I achieved my purpose.
  12. I cannot switch my voice. My voice is not like an elevator going up and down.
  13. I don’t know what happens to me on stage. Something else seems to take over.
  14. I don’t need the money, dear. I work for art.
  15. I prepare myself for rehearsals like I would for marriage.
  16. I want to be a mature artist with a different kind of thinking.
  17. I was always too mature for my age – and not very happy. I had no young friends. I wish I could go back to those days. If I could only live it all again, how I would play and enjoy other girls. What a fool I was.
  18. I will always be as difficult as necessary to achieve the best.
  19. I will not be sued! I have the voice of an angel!
  20. I would like to be Maria, but there is La Callas who demands that I carry myself with her dignity.
  21. I would not kill my enemies, but I will make them get down on their knees. I will, I can, I must.
  22. If I have stepped on some people at times because I am at the top, it couldn’t be helped. What should I do if someone gets hurt… retire?
  23. I’m not interested in money, but it must be more than anyone else gets.
  24. It is like comparing champagne with cognac. No-with Coca-Cola.
  25. It’s a terrible thing to go through life thinking that you have a rock on your side when you haven’t.
  26. Love is so much better when you’re not married.
  27. My poor sight gives me an advantage. I can’t see the people in the audience who are scratching their heads while I am lost in my role and giving everything I have to the drama.
  28. On stage, I am in the dark.
  29. Only my dogs will not betray me.
  30. Only when I was singing did I feel loved.
  31. Paris dictates fashion to the whole world.
  32. Real friends are very special, but you have to be careful because sometimes you have a friend and you think they are made of rock, then suddenly you realise they’re only made of sand.
  33. Some say I have a beautiful voice, some say I have not. It is a matter of opinion. All I can say, those who don’t like it shouldn’t come to hear me.
  34. That is the difference between good teachers and great teachers: good teachers make the best of a pupil’s means; great teachers foresee a pupil’s ends.
  35. The public is a monster and that is why I am not eager to return to the stage.
  36. There must be a law against forcing children to perform at an early age. Children should have a wonderful childhood. They should not be given too much responsibility.
  37. To sing is an expression of your being, a being which is becoming.
  38. What is there in life if you do not work? There is only sensation, and there are only a few sensations— you cannot live on them. You can only live on work, by work, through work. How can you live with self-respect if you do not do things as well as lies in you?
  39. When I did not become enemies, then I understand that there was nothing standing.
  40. When music fails to agree to the ear, to soothe the ear and the heart and the senses, then it has missed the point.
  41. When my enemies stop hissing, I shall know I’m slipping.
  42. When the curtain rises, the only thing that speaks is courage.
  43. Women are not pals enough with men, so we must make ourselves indispensable. After all, we have the greatest weapon in our hands by just being women.
  44. You are born an artist or you are not. And you stay an artist, dear, even if your voice is less of a fireworks. The artist is always there.

 

 

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