Cover image for The unknown Callas : the Greek years
The unknown Callas : the Greek years
Petsalēs-Diomēdēs, N., 1943-
Publication Information:
Portland, Or. : Amadeus Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
672 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Personal Subject:
Format :


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ML420.C18 P43 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this award-winning biography, Petsalis-Diomidis closely examines Maria Callas's life in Athens from 1937 to 1945. These years have been largely absent from previous works about Callas, but were crucial to her professional and personal growth. The author examines her professional development, her studies, her concertizing, and her work with the Greek National Opera. He also recounts Callas's daily life, her friendships, her rivalries at the conservatory, and her personal life. Though it is a detailed historical biography, the writing and pace are novelistic. HARDCOVER.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Legendary diva Maria Callas was born in New York City in 1923 to Greek immigrants George and Litsa Kaloyeropoulou. In 1937, Litsa abruptly left her husband and returned to her homeland, taking Maria, whom she called Mary, and her sister. In this exhaustively researched book, historian Petsalis-Diomidis tells the story of Mary Kaloyeropoulou's student years in Athens, where she lived from 1937 to 1945. During that formative period she studied with two prominent vocal teachers, Maria Trivella at the National Conservatory and Elvira de Hidalgo at the Athens Conservatory, and launched her career in leading roles at the Greek National Opera. She believed she could become the greatest singer in the world, and the author, a historian living in Athens, shows how poverty, the struggle to survive during the WWII German occupation, and a troubled home life with a mother she hated contributed to her tempestuous personality and her ruthless pursuit of her goal. Having interviewed many who knew her, the author constructs a fascinating portrait of an overweight, contentious teenager who alienated nearly everyone she met, but who transformed into a magnetic presence on stage. Leonidas Zoras, conductor for the National Opera, said of Callas at 21, "Whenever she came on stage, so powerful was her personality that everybody's attention was concentrated entirely on her." Her extraordinary acting ability enabled her to use to compensate for the well-known vocal flaws that plagued her throughout her career. Among the recent spate of books on Callas, which tend to concentrate on the sensational aspects of her life, this stands out for its insight into her evolution as an artist. Petsalis-Diomidis's fine book won Greece's National Biography Award in 1999. B&w photos. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Winner of Greece's National Biography Award in 1999 and here translated into English for the first time, this biography of Callas (1923-77) concentrates on a less-explored portion of the soprano's life: what Athenian scholar Petsalis-Diomidis calls "the crucial Greek years" from 1937 to 1945. Built around findings from Athenian archives and interviews with more than 200 colleagues, this work devotes special attention to Callas's vocal studies, opera roles, recital repertoire, and interactions with colleagues. The author also addresses the political situation in Greece during World War II, including Callas's alleged involvement with German and British occupying forces, the Communist threat, and privations suffered by the populace. Setting the stage with Callas's youth in New York and her personal relationships with relatives, he concludes with an exploration of her psychological makeup in later years and historical background on the Athens Conservatory, singing technique, and various operas. Archival photographs and documentation are especially valuable. If readers can get beyond the minutiae of the descriptions, they will be rewarded with a glimpse into a period and situations rarely touched on by other Callas biographers. Recommended as a worthy supplement to standard Callas biographies. (Index not seen.) Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This definitive volume on the early Greek student years of Mary Kaloyeropoulou (also known as Maria Callas) ranks among the very best biographies of opera singers. Although limited to the years from her birth in the US (1923) and her move to Greece (1937) to her departure (in 1945) after eight years of study and her earliest professional performances, the book sheds significant light on how the diva evolved. Voice students and teachers will be fascinated to read about the voice instruction Callas received. Petsalis-Diomidis' thorough scholarship assures the reader that the content is the best that can be known about the singer, barring future discoveries; he quotes liberally from Callas's own words but does not make the mistake of accepting them at face value. The author's intent is to clarify the roots of a fabulous opera career, not to debunk other authors; for the most part, he relegates references to misinformation that has been carelessly repeated in dozens of other books to footnotes and endnotes, so the focus of the narrative is never diffused or sidetracked. Photographs are very helpful. An epilogue sums up the author's findings, deals with Callas's final breach with her mother, and lists her performances and repertoire during the Greek years. The diva is well served. M. S. Roy Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus