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MARIA CALLAS: Sacred Monster

Galatopoulos, Stelios

73 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0684859858 / ISBN 13: 9780684859859
Published by Simon & Schuster, 1999
Used Condition: Fair
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Ships from Reno, NV. Former Library book. Shows definite wear, and perhaps considerable marking on inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP85985163

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Bibliographic Details

Title: MARIA CALLAS: Sacred Monster

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: 1999

Book Condition:Fair

Edition: First Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

"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 Callas

This is the authoritative biography of one of the great icons of the century, Maria Callas, the most brilliant and controversial singer-actress of modern times. Written by a music scholar, opera critic, and, toward the end of Callas' life, a close friend, Sacred Monster is an account of the singer's triumphant and tumultuous public career and her private life. "There are two people in me, Maria and Callas....Their difference is only that Callas is a celebrity," she remarked. The celebrity Callas defined an age of opera. The private Callas is a source of lasting fascination.

Sacred Monster is not only the definitive portrait of one of the greatest artists of the century, it corrects the many misguided books about Callas that have appeared since her death in 1977 at the age of fifty-three. Galatopoulos writes about Callas objectively -- recognizing her flaws, her temperament, and the signs of premature vocal deterioration. He re-creates the triumph of intelligence, hard work, musical talent, grit, and fierceness that enabled Callas to rise to superstardom. He recounts her sometimes stormy relationships with the conductors, managers, and fellow stars, and with her family, husband, and lover.

Galatopoulos attended more than a hundred of Callas' performances and he describes not only the brilliance of her many triumphs, the disappointments of her setbacks, and the poignance of her premature decline, but also her legacy, which resides in her continuing influence and her extensive and valuable discography. Callas chose to share many of her most frank judgments about her professional problems with Galatopoulos. Perhaps most dramatically, in this book, which might almost be called "Callas Has the Last Word," Galatopoulos sets straight the soap opera portrait some have drawn of a shattered and reclusive woman abandoned by her lover, Aristotle Onassis. In fact, Callas and Onassis resumed their friendship shortly after his marriage to Jacqueline Kennedy. This portrait of Callas shows her in retirement every bit as forceful and engaged as she was on stage.

Maria Callas: Sacred Monster is lavishly illustrated. One hundred pages of photographs show Callas' roles in a visual documentary of the period 1947 to 1965, a truly golden age of opera. Many of the images have never before been published. A complete survey of Callas' recordings and a list of her performances are also included.

Review:

Maria Callas is a biographer's dream. Born into poverty, she turned herself from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, and in the process became the most celebrated diva of the 20th century. She breathed life, drama, and passion into an art form that had hitherto remained the preserve of an intellectual elite, and was single-handedly responsible for turning opera from an arts-page sideshow to front-page news. Her bust-ups with the New York Met and her disastrous love life--culminating in a tragic obsession with Aristotle Onassis--were as enthralling as her voice, and there was a depressing inevitability about her mysterious, early death in 1977 at the age of 54.

It's hardly surprising, then, that there have been any number of books written about Callas. Most have been little more than well-researched clippings jobs. Callas spent nearly 30 years in the public eye, and there is any amount of material about her on public record. What separates Stelios Galatopoulos from the rest of her biographers is the wealth of previously unpublished material from which he draws. He is stronger than most on Callas's early years--particularly the German occupation of Greece during the Second World War--which is a period many writers try to ignore, as Callas was accused by many Greek patriots of having been a traitor to her country by continuing to perform for the Nazis in the Athens opera house. Galatopoulos is quick to absolve her of any charges of collaboration. This is probably a correct assessment, though he falls short of labeling Callas and her mother as the ruthless careerists and opportunists they undoubtedly were.

Herein lie both the strength and weakness of the book. Galatopoulos was a close personal friend of Callas; as such he was privy to her most private thoughts and he offers us some fascinating new insights into her husband, Giovanni Meneghini; her lover Aristotle Onassis; and her mother. What he doesn't always do, though, is maintain a critical eye. Whenever he deals with anything controversial, he is happy to give Callas the benefit of the doubt. But all this is really a minor quibble. Overall, Galatopoulos does a superb job in re-creating the opera world of the 1940s through to the 1970s and he excels in his assessment of Callas's artistic achievements. Maria Callas: Sacred Monster may not be the final word on the diva, but it's as close as it comes. --John Crace

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