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Subject: Re: Books on Callas (ctd.)
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Sun, 26 Feb 2017 14:08:38 -0500

text/plain (62 lines)

Donald Kane wrote:

"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."

Galatopoulos was not "wrongly accused" of plagiarism; he was caught in the act.

I did not include "Sacred Monster" in my survey of Callas books because IMO it falls 
somewhere between "worth having" and "trash."  Yes, the book has some nice pictures, 
although many are not reproduced well.  But the text, most of which purports to be 
verbatim or near-verbatim accounts of private conversations between the author and Callas 
(he puts her alleged remarks in quotes), is completely unreliable.  Anyone familiar with 
interviews Callas gave over the years will recognize many places where Galatopoulos clearly 
lifted what Callas said in other contexts and slapped quotes on it as what Callas "told" him 
in private conversation.  (See, e.g., what Callas "told" Galatopoulos about what she learned 
from director Roberto Mordo, which is lifted almost verbatim from the interview Callas gave 
to Edward Downes in 1968.)  Similar examples can be found of statements lifted from 
Callas' famous filmed interview with Lord Harewood, also from an interview she gave in 
Chicago in 1958.  There are far too many of these examples to be a coincidence.

There are other dead giveaways that Galatopoulos was simply making stuff up.  For 
example, he claims to have had a conversation with Tullio Serafin in which Serafin 
"explained" to him what he meant by his remark re his three "vocal miracles" (which did not 
include Callas).  (The exact quote is, "In my lifetime there have been three vocal miracles - 
Caruso, Ruffo and Ponselle.  Apart from these, there have been several other wonderful 
singers.")  BUT...Serafin died in 1968, and his "three vocal miracles" remarks were first 
published in Walter Legge's 1978 obituary of Callas in Opera News.  (Legge was using 
Serafin's remark, which was made to Legge privately, to put Callas' flawed singing in 
perspective.)  So just how did Galatopoulos come to talk with Serafin about comments that 
Galatopoulos could not have known about until after Serafin died?  Clearly, the worshipful 
Galatopoulos could not bear for people to think that Callas' mentor Serafin did not put her 
at the top of his vocal pantheon, so he concocted an "explanation" for Serafin's remark 
which he then put in Serafin's own mouth to give it more weight.  

"Sacred Monster" is one of those obnoxious books on Callas in which the author is trying to 
build himself up as a repository of hitherto unknown information about Callas, by claiming 
to have had inside information from the Diva herself.  Given the many instances of 
mendacity throughout Galatopoulos' text, I don't believe a word he says, particularly as 
much of what he says is a slant on Callas (e.g., her feelings about Onassis) which is not 
supported by any other reputable book on her.

So...not quite "trash," but not recommendable, either.  At least by me.


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