The Most Authentic Callas: “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words”

What is to be said about opera legend Maria Callas that hasn’t always been said? Not much. There have been several documentaries and movies her life—“Callas Forever,” “Maria Callas: La Divina: A Portrait,” Callas Assoluta,” “Maria Callas: Life & Art,” and “Maria Callas: Living and Dying for.” So, is another documentary or movie about La Callas necessary?

Perhaps, Tom Volf’s documentary “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” will give Callas’s diehard fans a reason for another film about the great diva. “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” is the first documentary where Maria Callas tells her life story in her own words. The entire documentary is told through performances, TV interviews, home movies, family photographs, private letters and unpublished memoirs—nearly all of which have never been shown to the public—the film reveals the essence of an extraordinary woman who rose from humble beginnings in New York City to become a glamorous international superstar and one of the greatest artists of all time. This documentary is a loving portrait of one of history’s most extraordinarily talented women, told in a way that is revelatory, unprecedented, and authoritative.

Interestingly, “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” is perhaps the most authentic reflection on Callas’ life and there is no doubt that Callas’ life was a life that great dramas are made from. From her up from the almost bottom in the Bronx—most people don’t know that Callas is actually a New York native—to the beginning of her operatic career in Greece to her dramatic weight loss, to her becoming a style icon in the manner of Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren to her reputation as a difficult diva, to her affair with Aristotle Onassis everything is documented through interviews and photographs in the diva’s own words.

What is most evident in this documentary is that though Callas was a very complicated woman whose life and career was just as complicated as the woman herself is that Callas was totally invested in the complications in her life and her passions. “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” is perhaps the first documentary that records in an artist own words the angst and frustrations of a great artist torn between career, family life and personal obligations.

Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Classic

And though there is some sadness and regret in this film due to Callas’ tragic life and untimely death at the age of 59, there are some great footage of her performing great operatic roles—Norma, Tosca, Lucia di Lammermoor—as well as great interviews with Dick Cavett, particularly after her breakup with Onassis. There is also great footage of Callas’ fans queued outside of the old Metropolitan House in New York City.

For those Callas diehards this is a must-see film. In “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” still lives and lives, through her own words.

Photos by REX/Shutterstock (25089c) MARIA CALLAS WITH PHOTOGRAPHERS
VARIOUS – 1968

“Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” is directed by Tom Volf and opens in limited release nationwide on November 2.

—William S. Gooch

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