The bronze statue of legendary opera singer Maria Callas was unveiled in the Roberto Galli park in central Athens on Friday evening.
The statue was unveiled by Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis with the presence of the Maria Callas Greek Society that commissioned the artwork.
The statue is in commemoration of the great soprano nearly 100 years since her birth. Fittingly, it stands on Dionysiou Areopagitoy Street, close to the entrance of Odeon of Herodes Atticus, in the Acropolis foothill.
It is a shiny bronze statue, created by sculptor Aphrodite Liti, who worked as a museum sculptor at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens from 1978 until 2000.
Since 2000, she is Professor of Sculpture at the Athens School of Fine Arts, while her work has been exhibited in galleries since 1981.
The Maria Callas statue is created so that it depicts references to the life and spirit of the opera singer, all found in details of the artwork.
The initiative of the statue belongs to the Maria Callas Greek Society that has worked hard for erecting the statue in the particular location.
It took months for the Maria Callas Greek Society to secure permission from the Central Archaeological Council. It also took over two years for the creation of the fine sculpture from Aphrodite Liti.
The great soprano and her mother
Born on December 2, 1923 in New York City to Greek immigrant parents, Maria Callas became one of the most talented and famous opera singers of the 20th century.
Her wide range soon made her La Divina, La Callas and all other nicknames that opera lovers and the press used for her.
Her life, from early on, had the elements of drama, much like some of the operas she performed. Her overbearing mother wanted a son, and her behavior towards young Maria was substandard, showing openly her preference to Maria’s older sister.
Accompanied by her mother, Callas left the United States in 1937 to study at the Athens Conservatory with soprano Elvira de Hidalgo. She sang locally and returned to the United States in 1945.
The relationship with her mother never improved, with Callas carrying the pain of the unloving mother. This is how she described her early life to Time magazine in 1956:
“My sister was slim and beautiful and friendly, and my mother always preferred her. I was the ugly duckling, fat and clumsy and unpopular. It is a cruel thing to make a child feel ugly and unwanted… I’ll never forgive her for taking my childhood away. During all the years I should have been playing and growing up, I was singing or making money.”
An illustrious career
Maria Callas’ career began in August 1947, when she appeared in Verona in La Gioconda. Under the tutoring of conductor Tullio Serafin, she made debuts in Venice, Turin, and Florence.
In 1949 she appeared in Rome, Buenos Aires, and Naples and in 1950 in Mexico City. Her powerful soprano voice, capable of sustaining both lyric and coloratura roles, was intensely dramatic.
In the same year, she made her debut at the prestigious La Scala in Milan, singing in I Vespri siciliani. In 1952 she appeared at Covent Garden, London.
In 1954 she made her American debut at Chicago’s Lyric Opera in the title role of Norma, a performance she repeated before a record audience at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Callas’ recordings were enthusiastically received, and she was one of the most popular singers of the period. Her volatile temperament generated feuds with rivals and managers.
In 1957, while Callas was married to Giovanni Battista Meneghini, she was introduced to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Their turbulent affair that ended in 1968 received huge publicity.
After a final operatic performance as Tosca at Covent Garden in July 1965, she became a Greek citizen in the next year and relinquished her U.S. citizenship so she could divorce her husband.
Callas was devastated after Onassis ended their affair. She taught master classes in opera at Juilliard in 1972 before a last U.S. and European concert tour (1973–74).
By the time of her retirement, she had performed more than 40 different roles and had recorded more than 20 complete operas.
Callas spent her last years living in isolation in Paris and died of a heart attack at age 53 on September 16, 1977.