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Maria Callas > Mementos of a grand passion for a grand Diva May 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece.

Extensive Italian Cultural Institute exhibition on Maria Callas takes in public, private persona > At the Italian Cultural Institute, the exhibition showcases garments, costumes, correspondence, opera programs and more.

the_diva.jpg  The Greek Diva with maestro Antonino Votto at Athens’s Herod Atticus Theater in August 1957

In a long, often dramatic, journey which took her from New York City to Greece and the rest of the world all the way to immortality, Maria Callas became a global symbol of absolute adoration. The emotion continues.

“Maria Callas: A Woman, A Voice, A Myth” opened earlier this week at the Italian Cultural Institute in Athens and runs to May 28. More than showcasing precious items, the show reflects the love that Callas still incites around the world. Smaller or larger mementos demonstrate the grand passion with which Callas fans carry on the myth.

Also organized by the Italian Cultural Institute in Athens, the show was largely put together by Venice’s Cultural Association Maria Callas, counting on the support of Greece’s Foundation for Studies and Solidarity. It comes under the aegis of the Greek Ministry of Culture.

For Italian audiences, Callas was simply La Divina, the divine figure triumphing at Milan’s La Scala and Venice’s La Fenice. For the world, she began her life as Maria Anna Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos, born to immigrant parents in New York City in 1923.

At the Italian Cultural Institute, the exhibition features over 500 objects, ranging from garments and costumes to correspondence, opera programs, countless photographs and pieces of stage jewelry. On display are family shots and photographs of early performances at Athenian theaters, including the Greek National Opera, in the 1940s. It also follows the subsequent transformation of a rather unsophisticated young woman into the elegant, and often tormented, international star.

There are photographs from her triumphs at La Scala: “Lucia di Lammermoor” in 1954, “Norma” and “La Sonnambula” in 1955 and “Anna Bolena” in 1957. Private documents range from her birth certificate to letters to her housekeeper, her beloved teacher Elvira de Hidalgo, a last letter to Maurice Bejart, as well as the lighter side, including her recipe for chocolate souffle. And there are also rare items such as her first gramophone record: Bellini’s “I Puritani.” Other photographs include: paparazzi shots depicting her with Aristotle Onassis in the beginning of their passionate and ill-fated affair; dining with friends, including Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly in Monaco.

There is also the warm orange gown Callas wore in her final stage appearances: at the Theatre des Champs Elysee in 1973 and the Auditorium NHK in Tokyo in 1974; the black garment and impressive neckpiece she wore in Pier Pasolini’s cinematic “Medea,” as well as letters to the Italian director written on Olympic Airways stationary.

The elegance of the 1960s is depicted with two black gowns designed by Italian Biki and a silver-thread crochet gown from the 1920s, offered by Onassis aboard the Christina, as well as her faithful allies on stage: intricate costume jewelry including Kramer diamonds for “Traviata” and an elaborate neckpiece from an “Aida” performance in Mexico City, in 1950. Following Athens, the exhibition will travel to the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, where it will go on display throughout June.

Meanwhile, Greece is currently marking 30 years since Callas’s death and the Greek state has named 2007, Maria Callas Year. Celebrations include about 70 recitals and concerts, among other tributes. In March, for example, world-renowned Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa paid tribute to Callas at the Athens Concert Hall. The Callas flame remains international, however: stage jewelry worn by the diva went on display at the New York City’s Metropolitan Opera earlier this year.

Italian Cultural Institute, 47 Patission Street, Athens, tel 210 5242646.

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