Saturday, November 17, 2018

Maria by Callas: "Revelatory, Unprecedented, and Authoritative"

I saw the new documentary on Maria Callas this evening at the Edina Landmark Cinema.

Directed by Tom Volf and entitled Maria by Callas, it's a film that I highly recommend, especially if, like me, you are an admirer of Callas and are moved by her voice, her artistry, and her story. Maria by Callas is showing five times daily at the Edina Landmark thru Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 22). Check the cinema's website for times.

Below, with added images and links, is the film's official synopsis. It's followed by the official trailer. Enjoy!

Tom Volf’s Maria by Callas is the first film to tell the life story of the legendary Greek/American opera singer Maria Callas completely in her own words.

Her remarkable journey through stardom is told through performances, TV interviews, home movies, family photographs, private letters and unpublished memoirs – nearly all of which have never been seen by the public. Using this amazing range of sources, including a wealth of her musical performances, the film reveals the essence of an extraordinary woman who rose from humble beginnings in New York City to become a glamorous international superstar and one of the greatest artists of all time.

Assembling the material for the film took director Volf four years of painstaking research, which included personal outreach to dozens of Callas's closest friends and associates, who allowed him to share their personal memorabilia in the film. When recordings of Callas's voice aren't available, Joyce DiDonato, one of contemporary opera's biggest stars, reads her words.

Callas believed that two different women lived in her: Maria, the woman who longed for a normal life; and Callas, the public figure and icon, from which an adoring public expected a transcendent experience every time she stepped onstage, and which could quickly become outraged when they felt she had given them anything less.

Maria by Callas revisits many of the most notable controversies of Callas’s life, from the “Rome Cancellation” to her conflict with the Metropolitan Opera’s Rudolf Bing, and demonstrates that, while Callas was a demanding perfectionist, she was neither capricious nor someone who made trouble for its own sake.

The film also sheds new light on Callas’s relationship with Aristotle Onassis, the supreme love of her life.

Instead of trying to sum up her vast musical repertoire through countless clips, Volf instead presents some of her most important arias in their entirety.

Each aria is chosen for its significance for the period in Callas’s life during which she sang them. These arias include: “Casta Diva” (Norma), the “Habanera” (Carmen), and “Vissi d'arte” (Tosca).

Through hearing these full versions of Callas’s performances, the audience is able to experience a direct, unmediated response to her music, as the audiences of her time did.

Maria by Callas is a loving portrait of one of history’s most extraordinarily talented women, told in a way that is revelatory, unprecedented, and authoritative.

Related Off-site Links:
Maria by Callas: A Star Is Reborn in a Dense Portrait of the Opera Singer in Her Own Words – David Ehrlich (Indie Wire, October 8, 2018).
Demystifying a Diva in Maria by Callas – Ben Kenigsberg (The New York Times, November 1, 2018).
Maria by Callas Celebrates an Opera Icon in Her Own Words – Alessandra Codinha (Vogue, October 2, 2018).
Film Review: Maria by Callas – Scott Tobias (Variety, November 2, 2018).

For more of Maria Callas at The Wild Reed, see:
Remembering Maria . . . Celebrating Callas
Re-Visioning Callas
Remembering Callas
Callas Went Away
Maria Callas – "Ava Maria"
Callas Remembered
The Impossible Desire of Pier Paolo Pasolini
Europe 2005 – Part 6: Paris

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