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Subject: Callas by Maria
From: Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 7 Dec 2018 18:38:08 -0500
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The documentary "Callas by Maria" finally hit the hinterlands of the
Midwest.  It started today at one theatre in the Cleveland area and I was
there for the first showing.  I will most likely go again and buy it when
it comes out on DVD.

Unless you know the basics of the Callas life and career, this is not the
best "first step."  For that I would suggest the Ardoin and then the Tony
Palmer.  However, if you do know the "back story" this will be the one you
keep coming back to.  It makes you feel like no other telling of the Callas
story, her commitment to her art, the incredible pressure she felt to live
up to the reputation her inherent genius created, and the toll such
dedication took on her as a person.  After watching the film, my personal
opinion is that the "Rome Walkout" was the beginning of the collapse of her
ability to cope with the level of popular, professional, and artistic fame
she had dedicated her life  (up to that point) to achieve.  She refers to
it as a  low point until just about the very end of her life.

A few additional comments:

The film largely ignores her formative years.  There is no recounting of
her early career defining anomalies like alternating Walkure with
Puritani.  We jump almost immediately into the glory years at La Scala.
The film maker, Tom Volf did a marvelous job of searching out and restoring
old color footage of Callas in performance - productions I've admired in
black and white photos in the Ardoin book suddenly jump to life in vivid
reds, blues, and yellows.  How gorgeous she looked in that Trieste "Norma"
and all the fire you would expect is there in those brief flashes of her in
performance.  There are also stunning scenes from Vestale, Ballo, the '55
Scala Norma, the Lisbon Traviata, the Paris Norma and the London Tosca  -
all carefully curated by the director.

The narration is either in the Callas voice, or by Joyce di Donato reading
the Callas letters.  Brava to di Donato for not trying to imitate any
number of the speaking "voices" the real Callas used to express herself -
from Grande Dame in the David Frost interview to the "Fulton Fish Market"
shriek after Bing fired her from the MET.  Di Donato captures both surface
and soul without distracting attention from the essence of La Divina.

If you haven't seen it...don't miss it!

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