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Subject: Books On Callas (was Re: Maria Callas Remembered)
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Sat, 25 Feb 2017 22:52:14 -0500

text/plain (63 lines)

I like Stancioff's book because it does not attempt to be more than it is - a straightforward 
account of Stancioff's relationship with Callas during an interesting period in her career (the 
filming of Pasolini's "Medea") and the years thereafter.  Stancioff writes well and what she 
says about Callas rings true.

Books on Callas generally fall into three categories: biographies, memoirs (the “I Was 
Callas’ Mother/Husband/Friend/Secretary/Accompanist/Hairdresser/Next-Door-
Neighbor/Childhood Friend/Favorite Paris Hanger-On/Third Cousin Twice Removed, etc.), 
and artistic assessments.  Sometimes a single book will combine all three.  Obviously I have 
not read them all, but of those I have read, here, for what they are worth, are my 
assessments of the relative merits.  (Obviously I included only books written in or translated 
into English).  From best to worst:

Outstanding/Must Haves:

Ardoin/Fitzgerald, “Callas.”  If I had to recommended a single book on Callas, this would be 
it.  It contains an excellent (and accurate) account of her life and extensive quotations from 
Ardoin’s personal “Callas Tapes,” recorded as she poured her heart and thoughts out to him 
during a 1968 visit to Dallas shortly after Onassis’ marriage to Jackie.  Best of all, it has 
detailed accounts of her most important productions with magnificent photos and extensive 
commentary by those involved - Bernstein, Zeffirelli, Visconti, Rescigno, etc.  Many 
subsequent books on Callas have drawn on this one (in Arianna Stassinopoulos’s case, to 
the point of actionable plagiarism). 

Ardoin, “The Callas Legacy.”  This is the definitive study of Callas’ recorded legacy, by the 
critic who knew her art (and the woman) as well as anyone and better than most.  The 
revised (2003) edition is available only in paperback.

Gage, “Greek Fire.”  This is one of the most accurate and meticulously researched books on 
Callas ever written.    The author is a journalist, and it shows.  The book deals almost 
exclusively with the Callas/Onassis relationship but miraculously manages to avoid soap 
opera (other than that inherent in the relationship itself).  The narrative manages to be 
detailed without getting bogged down in minutiae, and it makes for compelling reading.  
The account of the Fateful Cruise in 1959, in addition to being the most accurate account 
ever written, reads like a page-turner.  The most important piece of information is the 
author’s contention (well-documented) that rather than having an abortion, as she told 
friends Onassis forced her to do, Callas actually had a premature child (male) in Rome in 
1960, who died shortly after birth. 

Petsalis-Diomidis, “The Unknown Callas: The Greek Years.”  This book covers, in meticulous 
detail, an important period in Callas' life - her early years in Greece - that has hitherto been 
something of a "black hole" in Callas bios.   Like Gage in “Greek Fire,” Petsalis-Diomidis has 
gone back to original sources rather than relying on previously written accounts.  The book 
is exemplary in its thoroughness, scholarship and scrupulous documentation.  IMO it is one 
of the truly essential books on Callas and will no doubt remain the definitive study of Callas' 
early years.

(To Be Continued...)


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