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Ira Siff
Opera News, November 2009

This film by Philippe Kohly…features some rare still photos, as well as a bit more of the outrageously exciting fit of pique she threw at a backstage press conference at a 1958 Dallas Medea the day Rudolf Bing famously fired her from the Met. The film is narrated with a mostly clear, chronological through-line by an unidentified narrator with a sympathetic tone. The story accents the difference between Callas, the brilliant, glamorous, highly acclaimed legend, and Maria, the ugly duckling turned swan, so damaged by the childhood treatment by her driven mother that she remained unsure of her worth to the end…One of the difficult aspects of chronicling the life and art of this incomparable artist is the scarcity of performing footage. There’s plenty of press coverage but little concert material and almost no opera performance—only two versions of Act II of Tosca, one from 1958 and the other from the famous Zeffirelli production at Covent Garden in 1964, when Callas was past her vocal best, although still thrilling to watch. This documentary shows a brief fragment of the latter and none of the former. In the Paris concert that included the earlier Tosca excerpt (the only Callas concert filmed during her prime, and just barely at that), Callas opened with a selection of arias, and a fragment of the Miserere from Il Trovatore is seen here as well. The glimpses are riveting…this is an obvious labor of love that will give a good overview of the diva’s life and art to the newcomer…





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