Maria Callas Remembered

Stancioff, Nadia

Published by Dutton Adult, 1987
ISBN 10: 0525245650 / ISBN 13: 9780525245650
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Synopsis: Years after her death Maria Callas remains one of the most renowned and compelling of all divas. Although much has been written about Callas the prima donna, the consummate stage magician, and the tragic lover of Aristotle Onassis, this is the first account of Maria the woman by someone who was close to her. Stancioff, a longtime friend, shares memories of the Maria who gave impromptu concerts of Beatles hits and Mexican ballads; of the Maria who starved herself to conform to the image of a celebrity but would go into rhapsodies about a plate of pasta. And to her own warm reminiscences, Stancioff adds the insights of Maria's friends, colleagues, and family. The figure that emerges is intriguing, infuriating, mystifying—and endlessly fascinating.

Review: Nadia Stancioff was Maria Callas's friend during the diva's unhappy final years, starting as a publicist for Callas's film of Medea. Interviewing people who had known her earlier, Stancioff sought to explore the woman from the inside--"Maria," not "Callas." Though the result offers no real information we haven't seen before, it is delivered in a personal voice that makes this memoir (first published in 1987) worth reading.

There's plenty about Callas's appearance and love life, but the tone is chatty rather than trashy. The events that Stancioff herself was there for were not especially significant (she was present, however, when Onassis paid his first visit to an agitated Callas after his marriage to Jackie Kennedy). More valuable are the stories she hears from colleagues, fans, and the singer's elusive sister. The one subtle, and indeed moving, touch is something the author doesn't do: she declines to resolve the contradictions people tell her. Maria's mother pushed her into singing; it was Maria's own desire. Maria's family was kept in luxury during World War II by her sister's boyfriend; Maria ate out of garbage cans. In the '40s, the Met offered her roles that she turned down; there was no offer. The stories aren't reconciled because Callas can't be: she exists only in the kaleidoscope of other people's impressions. Stancioff's own Maria is a difficult woman--capricious, superhumanly insecure--to whom she is utterly loyal.

The unanswered questions surrounding Callas's death have been discussed elsewhere, such as in Maria Callas: Sacred Monster. As speculated on by the chorus of voices here, the mystery is particularly unsettling. Neither Callas nor, perhaps, anyone who cared about her was in control of what she left behind. It's a sad end to the tale of a tortured woman whose aura is as strong as ever but who was, ultimately, no more knowable than any of us. --David Olivenbaum

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Title: Maria Callas Remembered
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Publication Date: 1987
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Used: Good

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