Maria Callas: An Intimate Biography

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9780312269869: Maria Callas: An Intimate Biography

Maria Callas continues to mesmerize us twenty years after her death, not only because she was indisputably the greatest opera diva of the 20th century, but also because both her life and death were shrouded in a Machiavellian web of scandal, mystery and deception. Now Anne Edwards, well known for her revealing and insightful biographies of some of the world’s most noted women, tells the intimate story of Maria Callas—her loves, her life, and her music, revealing the true woman behind the headlines, gossip and speculation.

The second daughter of Greek immigrant parents, Maria found herself in the grasp of an overwhelmingly ambitious mother who took her away from her native New York and the father she loved, to a Greece on the eve of the Second World War. From there, we learn of the hardships, loves and triumphs Maria experienced in her professional and personal life. We are introduced to the men who marked Callas forever—Luchino Visconti, the brilliant homosexual director who she loved hopelessly, Giovanni Battista Meneghini, the husband thirty years her senior who used her for his own ambitions, as had her mother, and Aristotle Onassis, who put an end to their historic love affair by discarding her for the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy. Throughout her life, Callas waged a constant battle with her weight, a battle she eventually won, transforming herself from an ugly duckling into the slim and glamorous diva who transformed opera forever, whose recordings are legend, and whose life is the stuff of which tabloids are made.

Anne Edwards goes deeper than previous biographies of Maria Callas have dared. She draws upon intensive research to refute the story of Callas’s “mystery child” by Onassis, and she reveals the true circumstances of the years preceding Callas’s death, including the deception perpetrated by her close and trusted friend. As in her portraits of other brilliant, star-crossed women, Edwards brings Maria Callas—the intimate Callas—alive.

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Review:

Anne Edwards has made a career out of writing intelligent biographies of prominent women, from the tortured (Vivien Leigh, Judy Garland) to the indomitable (Katharine Hepburn, Shirley Temple). Her gift for vivid characterization and lively narrative is once again in evidence in this readable portrait of opera's revolutionary diva, Maria Callas (1923-77).

Edwards doesn't add anything new to the well-known story of Callas' tumultuous life, and she disagrees with Nicholas Gage's controversial assertion (in the book Greek Fire) that Callas bore Aristotle Onassis a son who died shortly after his birth in 1960. But the author lays out the familiar facts deftly, nailing each of the forceful personalities who shaped Callas' destiny, from the obsessively ambitious mother who pushed her into performing and denied her a childhood to Onassis, the great love of her life, who broke her heart after a nine-year affair when he married Jacqueline Kennedy. Most forceful of all is Callas herself, who transformed opera with the revelation that great singing became even greater when buttressed by great acting.

Callas' fanatical devotion to the libretto, her deep understanding of character, and her incomparable musicianship get as much attention from Edwards as her famous feuds (most notably with Renata Tebaldi), the diet that transformed her into a sex symbol, and the notorious cancellations that occurred with increasing frequency to match the worsening of her vocal problems, which eventually forced her retirement from performing. The result is an exemplary popular biography that judiciously balances juicy anecdotes with critical commentary, giving the general reader a colorful, poignant portrait of Maria Callas the woman without ever losing sight of Callas the visionary artist. --Wendy Smith

From the Back Cover:

"Even those with little interest in opera or celebrity will be swept into this tale.... Edwards's riveting book is sure to prompt new interest in Callas's dramatic life." ---Publishers Weekly

"[Callas's] tumultuous life could be the subject of an opera, and Edwards negotiates it with the skill and ease of a seasoned conductor."---Booklist

Maria Callas, the prima donna who continues to mesmerize the world twenty-five years after her death, was born to Greek immigrant parents in New York City in 1923. Callas was a classic ugly duckling who struggled for years before transforming herself into a glamorous, almost mythical opera star.

From her early days as a poor, overweight singer with an undeniable yet uneven singing talent, to her physical and emotional breakdowns, and her passionate love affair with Aristotle Onassis, who would discard her for the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy---Anne Edwards brings readers a revealing portrait of the hardships, loves, and triumphs of Maria Callas.

Anne Edwards, who has been hailed as "the queen of biography" by Kirkus Reviews, is the author of many bestselling biographies, including Katharine Hepburn: A Remarkable Woman and Ever After: Diana and the Life She Led. She currently lives in Beverly Hills, California.

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Anne Edwards
Editorial: St. Martin's Press (2001)
ISBN 10: 0312269862 ISBN 13: 9780312269869
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