The Lincoln Center's Great Performers Series will be celebrating 'La Divina,' as she was often called, in their one weekend, three film series "Callas on Film," March 17-18.
Not only were Callas' distinct, chesty operatic vocals and range her claim to fame, but her on stage presence commanded attention. In addition to being an opera singer, she was an actress and an artist.
Callas was born in New York City in 1923. She received training in Greece beginning in 1937 from Maria Trivella of the Greek National Conservatoire. In 1939, Callas finished her schooling at the National Conservatoire and played the part of Santuzza in the Olympia Theatre's "Cavalleria rusticana." That same year, she was accepted into the Athens Conservatoire under the supervision of Elvira de Hidalgo, to whom she attributes her vocal skills.
In 1942, Callas made her professional debut as Beatrice in "Boccaccio." It wasn't until 1949 in Venice with a role in "I puritani" that her career take off, leading her to "Lucia di Lammermoor," "La traviata," "Armida," "La sonnambula," "Il pirata," "Il turco in Italia," "Medea" and "Anna Bolena."
Callas' scandalous life risked jeopardizing her artistry. She had a reputation for anger and throwing tantrums, reportedly walking out on husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini. While married to Meneghini, she had an affair with Aristotle Onassis, eventually leaving her husband for him.
Between the years of 1953 and 1954, she dropped nearly 80 pounds, which some blame for the decline of her voice, her career and her health. Her life was cut short by a heart attack in 1977 at the age of 53.
Watch below for the EMI Classics' "The Callis Effect:"