Maria Callas (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Maria Callas was blessed with one of the greatest voices of the 20th century. The renowned soprano, who was born on this date in 1923, was singing from her earliest days. She showed musical talent by age 3, and by 5, much to her dismay, Callas' mother was pressuring her to perform and bring in money for the family. Callas became a conservatory student in her early teens and made her professional debut at just 17. Her singing immediately turned heads, and for the next quarter of a century, she reigned over the operatic stage.
Callas was a diva in the classic sense of the word as well as in the sassier modern definition –– she was a great operatic performer, and she was also glamorous and temperamental, bombastic and beautiful. She transformed her appearance dramatically mid-career, losing weight and becoming as visually striking as she was vocally gifted. Scandal followed her in her professional life, as she feuded with La Scala opera house, fought a lawsuit from a former agent and gained a reputation as a tigress. Her personal life was no less fiery, with a high-profile affair with Aristotle Onassis that kept her in the gossip columns. But Callas didn't need scandal to stay in the public's mind. The power of her voice made her famous, and she would not have stayed in the spotlight without it.
Throughout her career, artists all around her had a lot to say about Maria Callas. Unsurprisingly, Callas also had a lot to say about her competition –– as well as about her art and her prodigious talent. Here are a few of our favorite quotes by and about Maria Callas:
"I don't know what happens to me on stage. Something else seems to take over." –– Maria Callas
"Callas? She was pure electricity." –– Leonard Bernstein
"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." –– Callas
"For sheer strength of character, I wouldn't have dared to cross swords with Callas. I would rather have gone six rounds with Jack Dempsey!" –– John Huston
"When my enemies stop hissing, I shall know I'm slipping." –– Callas
"I did it to serve Callas, for one must serve a Callas." –– Luchino Visconti
"When music fails to agree to the ear, to soothe the ear and the heart and the senses, then it has missed the point." –– Callas
"She opened a new door for us, for all the singers in the world, a door that had been closed. Behind it was sleeping not only great music but great ideas of interpretation. She has given us the chance, those who follow her, to do things that were hardly possible before her." –– Montserrat Caballe
"I don't need the money, dear. I work for art." –– Callas
"Listening to Callas is like reading Shakespeare: you’re always going to be knocked senseless by some incredible insight into humanity. She is a huge bonfire!" -AprilleMillo
“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.” - Callas
Written by Linnea Crowther. Find her on Google+.