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Subject: Re: Books on Callas (ctd.)
From: donald kane <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:donald kane <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 26 Feb 2017 11:49:04 -0500

text/plain (232 lines)

The Met Opera Shop advertises a new volume called THE
UNSEEN PICTURES, pub. 2016, $90.

And what of  MARIA CALLAS. SACRED MONSTER, pub. 1998?
The author, Stelio Galatopoulos, was wrongly accused of
plagiarism on the grounds that "conversations" with Callas were
lifted from other sources, but a careful reading shows that to
be false.  In any case, it is a storehouse of unusual photographic
and performance documentation.  For my purposes, this, and the Ardoin
Discography are the essentials.


On Sat, Feb 25, 2017 at 11:09 PM, Max D. Winter <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> This is a continuation of my review of Callas books begun in a previous
> post.
> Excellent
> Scott, “Maria Meneghini Callas.”  This excellent biography is concerned
> primarily with Callas
> the Artist.  It is specific, concise, and refreshingly lacking in maudlin
> sentimentality about its
> subject.  The title reflects the fact that the author considers Callas’
> greatest years to have
> been those before and immediately following her drastic weight loss in
> 1953-54, which Scott
> says slimmed away Callas’ voice along with her waistline.  Scott claims
> that as Callas’ vocal
> problems increased, “artifice replaced artistry.”  His assessment of her
> recordings and
> performances will not be shared by many - for example, he does not have
> high regard for
> the “Berlin Lucia” - but his specific observations are hard to argue with,
> even if one
> disagrees with the final assessments.  But Scott constantly challenges
> one’s opinions, even
> if he does not always persuade one to revise them.  Still, I think Scott’s
> censorious attitude
> towards Callas post-weight-loss will turn off a lot of her admirers.
> Ardoin, “Callas at Juilliard.”  This is a detailed account of Callas’
> master classes at Juilliard,
> based on the tapes and on what she told the students.  It provides a lot
> of insights into how
> Callas worked on a role, although she is not always illuminating in
> communicating her
> insights to the students, at least verbally.  My impression of the Callas
> Juilliard classes has
> always been that she was not a particularly effective teacher, because so
> much of what she
> did was instinctive and inimitable.  She is a stickler for detail and
> insists that the students
> do everything that is in the score.  My personal favorite moment from the
> master classes is
> Callas singing “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata!” from Rigoletto.  It is
> hair-raising.
> Stancioff, “Maria: Callas Remembered.”  Nadia Stancioff was Maria’s
> secretary and
> companion for several years in the late 60s-early 70s, specifically during
> the period she was
> making the “Medea” film with Pasolini.  She came to know Callas well.
> This book gives an
> honest, straightforward and well-written account of Callas the woman (very
> little on Callas
> the singer) during this time.  There are lots of interesting little
> details about her that one
> does not get elsewhere.  Much to her credit, Stancioff, does not try to
> make herself out to
> be more than she was – a good friend of Callas during an interesting time
> in her life and
> career.
> Sutherland, “Maria Callas: Diaries of a Friendship.”  Robert Sutherland
> was the accompanist
> for most of the Callas/Di Stefano tour in 1973-74.  This is a detailed,
> behind-the-scenes
> account of that tour.  Frankly, the book is a bit depressing, because the
> tour itself was
> depressing.  Still, one learns how hard Callas worked, before and during
> the tour, trying to
> get her voice back in shape.  Di Stefano comes off as an abusive pig,
> although it is clear
> that Sutherland basically likes him.  The book provides an interesting
> perspective on Callas
> from the point of view of an accompanist and fellow musician.  Like I
> said, I find it all a bit
> depressing, but well worth reading.
> Worth Having
> Meneghini, “My Wife, Maria Callas.”  Some might be surprised that I have
> included this
> much-maligned, self-serving biography among the Callas books “worth
> having.”  Much of
> this book has to be treated with profound skepticism (for example, as Gage
> has
> demonstrated, much of what Meneghini writes about the Fateful Cruise is
> melodramatic
> fiction), and much of it has a grating, whining, “Poor Me!” feel to it.
> But the fact remains
> that Meneghini was a very important person in Callas’ life and career,
> much more so than
> she and her admirers let on.  He knew Callas intimately long before she
> became famous,
> and there are many insights to be gleaned from this book even while one is
> sorting out the
> wheat from the chaff.  Among other things, we learn that Meneghini and
> Callas actually
> pushed Bing, deliberately, into canceling her contract with the Met, so
> that she could pursue
> a lucrative concert tour during the period she had contracted to do the
> Met Spring tour,
> without getting in trouble with AGMA for breach of contract.  (What they
> did not bargain on,
> I think, was Bing firing her so unceremoniously and spectacularly.)  This
> book also quotes
> extensively from Callas’ letters to Meneghini, which show that she really
> was in love with
> him in the early years of her marriage.
> Lowe, “Callas As They Saw Her.”  This is a collection of very interesting
> Callas materials:
> reviews over the course of her entire career, interviews by Callas, essays
> and appreciations
> by critics and artists (including Gobbi, Domingo, Sutherland and Bonynge,
> George London,
> Noel Coward and Yves Saint-Laurent).  It includes the transcript of a
> fascinating discussion
> on French TV about Callas with Fedele D’Amico, Rodolfo Celletti, Eugenio
> Gara, Luchino
> Visconti and Gianandrea Gavazzeni.
> Jellinek, “Callas: Portrait of a Prima Donna.”  This book was written in
> 1960 and so did not
> cover many important events in Callas’ life after that year.  The 1986
> edition contained a
> brief supplement covering Callas’ life after 1960 but not in any great
> detail.  The value of
> this book is that it is a basically contemporaneous account of Callas’
> life and career as they
> were happening and so has an immediacy other bios lack.  And much of it
> holds up very
> well.  I have a nostalgic affection for this book because I checked out a
> copy from my High
> School library in 1972 and it started my life-long affair and fascination
> with Maria Callas.
> Trash
> E. Callas, “My Daughter, Maria Callas.”  This is a work of fiction
> masquerading as a
> biography by Callas’s estranged and neurotic mother, Evangelia, who
> manages to be both
> pathetic and annoying at the same time.  The book gets off to a bad start
> by getting Callas’
> birth date wrong and asserting that she was born in a blinding snowstorm
> (when the
> almanac shows that the weather was clear and cold), and it goes downhill
> from there.  I
> suppose the book has some entertainment value, but it is has all
> Meneghini’s self-pity and
> self-importance without any important insights into Callas’ life.
> Stassinopoulos, “Maria Callas: The Woman Behind the Legend.”   This was
> the first major
> biography of Callas to appear after her death.  Basically, it is the Soap
> Opera version of
> Callas’ life, heavy on melodrama and light on insight.  Of Callas the
> Artist the author (now
> Arianna Huffington) has nothing to say other than trite banalities.  This
> book was the first to
> peddle the self-serving fiction Callas spread (which Stassinopoulos simply
> repeated without
> verifying or investigating) about Onassis forcing her to have an abortion
> (a story
> persuasively debunked by Nicholas Gage).  This book plagiarized so heavily
> and blatantly
> from the Ardoin/Fitzgerald book that they sued her and won.  I have always
> felt that this
> book should have been published with a lurid cover picture of a bosomy
> Callas in low
> decollete, fainting in the arms of a swarthy Onassis, like the cover of a
> Harlequin romance.
> Evans, “Maria Callas: An Intimate Biography.”  This is probably the nadir
> of books on Callas.
> Very poorly written and ungrammatical, it contains nothing original, being
> merely an
> inaccurate regurgitation of previously published accounts of Callas’ life
> with the sensational
> aspects emphasized.  The author clearly knows nothing about music and
> opera and has no
> appreciation of Callas’ importance as an artist.  She does, however,
> inform us about when
> Callas allegedly first performed oral sex on Onassis (albeit based on
> third-hand, unverified
> gossip).  That tells you the level on which this trashy book operates.
> Handle with tongs.
> **********************************************
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