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A century after her birth, Maria Callas, a revolutionary figure in operatic art, is being commemorated through a series of diverse tributes. These include a gala evening and a recital broadcast, with aspirations from her acquaintances for the establishment of a dedicated museum in Paris.

In an homage to Callas, two sopranos, Sondra Radvanovsky, an American-Canadian, and Pretty Yende, a South African, will perform arias famously sung by Callas, such as Casta Diva from Bellini’s Norma and Follie, follie from Verdi’s La Traviata at a Paris Opera gala on Saturday. In an interview with AFP, Radvanovsky praises Callas for her “graceful phrasing and musicality,” the “harmonious blend of her acting and singing,” and a voice that possessed a “dark timbre” with “flexibility and agility.” She applauds Callas for daring to be uniquely herself. Yende admires Callas for her “bravery in being authentic with her instrument” and notes that Callas brought a novel expression and color, particularly in the bel canto repertoire, that was unprecedented.

Efforts are underway to preserve Callas’ legacy through a dedicated museum in Paris, where she spent her last 15 years. Initiated in 2017 by Callas’ close associates, a fund has been established to safeguard her memory and gather dispersed archives, documents and personal items, including 150 letters, 5,000 photographs, stage costumes and jewelry and over 300 hours of music that include unreleased recordings and rehearsal tapes. However, the lack of a dedicated space hinders the display of these artifacts. The proposed museum in Paris would serve not only as a repository for these archives but also as a center for research and education about operatic arts, according to Tom Volf, the president of the fund.

A cinematic tribute to Callas includes Callas, Paris 1958, a film-concert in color showing her performance at a gala at Palais Garnier in 1958. This performance, attended by prominent figures like Jean Cocteau and Brigitte Bardot, has been restored to 4K resolution with optimal sound quality. The film features Callas, in a striking red gown and blue eye makeup, performing the Miserere from Verdi’s Il Trovatore and the complete second act of Tosca. Additionally, a biopic by Pablo Larrain featuring Angelina Jolie, titled Maria, has been partially filmed in Paris, though its release date is yet to be announced.

In Greece, a museum in Athens has recently opened, showcasing over 1,300 items including books, scores and dresses with a focus on Callas’ Greek years. Concurrently, La Scala in Milan is hosting an exhibition until April 24, portraying the soprano through the lens of contemporary creators. Moreover, Callas in Concert, a production from 2018, has revived her presence through a hologram accompanied by a live orchestra in various esteemed venues worldwide, including La Scala, the Met and Salle Pleyel in Paris.

With AFP.

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