Callas and Omero Lengrini

In recent years, the most sensational trouvaille in the realm of Callas biographies—one now widely accepted as true—has come from Nicholas Gage.

In Greek Fire: The Story of Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis (2000), Gage claims that on March 30, 1960, Callas gave birth to a “secret son” by Onassis, Omero Lengrini. (For Gage, “Lengrini” is the pseudonym under which Callas registered at hospital, while the name “Omero” commemorates an uncle of Onassis.) This child was supposedly conceived in August 1959, at the start of Callas’s relationship with Onassis.

According to Gage, Callas insisted that the child be delivered a month early by caesarean section to present Onassis (away on a cruise but due back in early April) “with a fait accompli.” The premature infant died within hours.

I’ve not arrived at a final conclusion, but Gage’s story has never made sense to me. He accepts Meneghini’s claim that Callas was in the early stages of menopause in 1957 and received a year-long series of injections to stave it off.

From there, Gage spins a long string of suppositions, starting with the notion that the injections “almost certainly” were estrogen hormones. Then, all emphasis added:
If Maria had been receiving these injections regularly for at least a year (and perhaps two) beginning in May 1957, then by the time she slept with Onassis in August of 1959, she might have been superfertile.
Gage asserts that a French journalist who interviewed Callas in person in what would have been her seventh month of pregnancy failed to notice her condition. He also claims, inaccurately, that after December 1959, Callas “would not appear in public for the next several months.” In fact, she was photographed on several high-profile occasions in both Milan and Paris as late as mid-February.

A certain “Nina Foresti,” whose site I commend to all, has the photos to demolish Gage’s tale. Nina also publishes Omero Lengrini’s complete birth certificate, which indicates that he was the son of one Mario Lengrini and spouse. (I’ve not yet verified the full birth certificate; Gage offers only partial documentation and claims that Omero’s parents were not identified.)

Nina’s site also includes embedded video of Callas, radiant and glamorous, arriving at the 1960 Cannes Festival, some six weeks after allegedly losing a nearly full-term baby.

Other evidence that argues against Gage’s account:
  • Photographs from the sixth or seventh month of Callas’s supposed pregnancy show her as slim and wasp-waisted as ever—and the idea, put forth by Gage, that a singer’s strong abdominal muscles could hide an advanced pregnancy is ludicrous.
  • In Gage’s book, Onassis’s former masseuse reports that Callas had a scar in the lower part of her abdomen. Gage presents this as evidence of a caesarean birth, but Callas’s 1948 appendectomy could have left such a scar.
  • Gage surmises that Callas rushed the delivery because she “feared having [Onassis] see her swollen and nine months pregnant.” Yet the scar from a c. 1960 caesarean delivery itself would have been quite disfiguring.
  • Many authors (Stassinopoulos, Petsalis-Diomidis, Gage himself) reproduce photographs of Callas wearing a bikini, long after the supposed birth, with no evidence of a caesarean scar.
  • If Callas were intent on concealing a pregnancy, why on earth would she have chosen to give birth in Milan, where paparazzi followed her every move and camped out on her doorstep?
  • Nina Foresti lists engagements for late 1960 that Callas negotiated during her supposed pregnancy and notes that she was back in the recording studio months after Omero Lengrini died. Nina concludes, and I concur: “If this woman gave birth to a son who died shortly thereafter… in light of what she undertook in those months [of 1960], she is not a courageous woman: She is a monster.”
  • Finally, by all accounts, Callas wanted nothing more than a child. The idea that she would endanger her baby’s life for reasons of vanity is grotesque. (And what does it mean, to present Onassis “with a fait accompli”? That he might have pressured her to abort a nearly full-term fetus? That idea is both grotesque and hateful.)
I am not prepared to say that Callas never fell pregnant or never gave birth, only that Gage’s tale has more holes in it than Emmentaler. The one longtime Callas friend with whom I have discussed this subject mused that Callas, at some point, hypothetically, could have given birth, but knew nothing of the events related by Gage.

You can learn more about the Omero Lengrini controversy at the Divina Records site, where two articles by Brigitte Pantis argue strongly against the hypothesis that Omero Legrini was Callas’s son.

No comments:

Post a Comment