Callas seen by Maraini IV

This is the fourth and final installment of Dacia Maraini’s 2007 interview about Maria Callas. If you have not done so already, please read the previous installments.

Nowadays, we speak of Callas as if invoking a myth. But how does this myth overshadow the woman Maria?
Her case is a lucky one: Almost nothing is lost of Maria’s great talent. We have studio recordings, pirates, cinema, photographs, and many biographies. If she had lived even fifty years earlier, probably nothing would have remained of her. So she was fortunate—or rather, we were fortunate.

Nonetheless, a myth isn’t based on a person’s character but on what she accomplished in life. Paradoxically, to generate a myth, mistakes are all-important. A mythic figure usually makes flagrant mistakes, suffers greatly, betrays, and is betrayed. But deep down, there is an extraordinary talent, and Maria’s myth is certainly born of her extreme talent.

Her voice—which, to our great joy, we can hear again and again even in her absence—takes flight with the perfection of a bird who knows all secrets of the air and its currents, of clouds and the wind.

Were any characters in your novels inspired by her?
Yes. When I wrote Veronica Franco, Courtesan and Poet, a theatrical work based on a poet of the sixteenth century, I thought of her. Of course, the context is different, the story is different, the places far off, but Veronica’s character has something of Maria’s, indomitable and at the same time naïve and childlike.

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