Gold Medal, New York Film & TV Festival
Tony Palmer’s film about Callas - 30th Anniversary Edition. Through a combination of archival footage and interviews, filmmaker Tony Palmer profiles the at once soaring and tragic life of opera legend Maria Callas, 'La Divina Assoluta'. Filmed on location in Athens, Rome, Milan, New York and London.
"The definitive portrait. Electrifying, marvellous and deeply moving. It will never be bettered." - Daily Express
"There are so many astonishing facts about Maria Callas… First, she was born not in Greece but in Manhattan and went to school there. Second, considering her colossal influence and in contrast to the pumped-up, preposterous, overpaid pipsqueak divas of today, her actual international career was tiny - 18 years at most. Third, and in spite of her reputation, her cancellation record was the lowest of any great singer of her day. Fourth, she rarely looked at the conductor during an opera, simply because she could not see him - she was very short sighted, and often appeared (partly as a result) to be in a trance while on stage. Fifth, she was betrayed by most of those intimate with her throughout her life, and eventually abandoned by many of those who should have known better and who claimed to have loved her. Sixth, she died almost penniless - even her grotesquely rich long-time lover, Onassis, whose marriage to Jackie Kennedy she only discovered by watching the 6 o’clock news, had invested her money in half a cargo boat, which sank.
Paradoxically, although she died in 1977, her records today outsell every other recorded classical artist, and single-handedly keep EMI Classics afloat. Last, hers was not the most beautiful voice of her time, as she frequently admitted. Some days it worked, other days it just didn’t.
In the end, those who met her in Paris in the seventies agree that she was one of the loneliest, most desperate of women they had ever encountered, slowly drugging herself to death. “Every day, thank God, is one day less”, she told Di Stefano. A summons to tea (for half an hour at most) often lasted until the early hours, with the guest or guests pleaded with not to leave.
It was pathetic and horrible, but it was Callas. It was always Callas, and that was the secret and the magic. We witness on stage a broken woman who sings nakedly from her heart, about herself and her life, who acts with such incredible power and unashamed truth that we stagger back before what we know, in our hearts, is all of her. No artifice here; no vulgar posturings to which her absurd imitators - and there are many - aspire. Gheorghiou, Battle, Garrett - they cannot touch her hem.
Maria - just a woman, who often spoke of Callas in the third person, in trouble, asking, begging sometimes, for our understanding and our love. She deserves it because there was no greater singing actress in our time. And she was only 53 when she died."
- Tony Palmer
1. Ardoin & the tragic love story
2. Una voce poco fa - The Barber of Seville
3. Graziella Sciutti
6. Verona, Serafin & Rossi-Lemeni
7. Oh, s’io potessi - Il Pirata
8. Audrey Hepburn & Lord Harewood
9. Callas as a singing actor
10. La Scala & Visconti
11. Nacqui all’affanno - La Cenerentola
12. The ugly duckling & Meneghini
13. Rome opera & cancellations
14. A Greek Tragedy: Tu che la vanita - Don Carlos
15. Habanera - Carmen
16. Carlo Maria Giulini
17. Onassis & Divorce
18. Tosca & Tito Gobbi
19. Abortion & attempted suicide
20. Tacea la notte placida - Il Trovatore: Jackie Kennedy
21. Waiting to die: Ah, non credea mirarti - La Sonnambula
22. Medea & Pasolini
23. I never thought I was any good
24. Every day, thank God, is one day less
25. Vissi d’arte - Tosca
26. O mio bambino caro - Gianni Schlicchi
27. End credits
With: Franco Zeffirelli, Giovanni Battista Meneghini, Aristotle Onassis, Graziella Sciutti, Luchino Visconti, Carlo Maria Giulini, Tito Gobbi, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Arda Mandikian, Nicola Rescigno, Nadia Stancioff, Nicola Rossi Lemeni, Lord Harewood, Sir John Tooley, John Copley, Jacques Bourgeois, Madame Biki, Elvira Di Hidalgo, Arianna Stassinopoulos, Michel Glotz & Polyvios Marchand.
Directed & Edited by Tony Palmer
Produced by Jill Marshall
Associate Producers John Ardoin, Alan Capper, Alan Sievewright
Sound mixed by Alan Dykes
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