In the summer of 2023, the Maria Callas museum will open its doors in the heart of Athens, honoring the 100 years since the Greek soprano legend was born.
The Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis, has already committed to the project, which will be housed in a beautiful neoclassical building on Mitropoleos Street in the center of Greece’s capital. The building belongs to the Municipality of Athens and the configuration of the space will follow modern museological specifications.
The museum will feature historical archives that have been gradually gathered throughout the years, including rare live recordings, a unique collection of records, and personal items.
A budding collection of Callas memorabilia
Though most materials have been collected over the years, 50 of the personal items of Maria Callas were recently donated to the Municipality of Athens by the President and member of the Association of Friends of Music, Konstantinos and Victoria Pilarinos.
Pilarinos stated, “This collection was protected for 45 years, with a lot of effort, respect, and love, and today it is handed over to the Municipality of Athens to be added to the exhibits of the Museum and to be used in the best possible way.”
He added, “The incredible efforts of Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis’ for the creation of the museum was our call for this gesture. The safe and dignified management of the collection by Technopolis of the Municipality of Athens was an additional and essential incentive for our donation.”
Callas’ personal items include her handwritten school album, nine medals with which she was honored, a diploma awarded to her in 1961 by the Municipality of Athens, a multitude of photographs and portraits of herself, as well as spectacular costumes and accessories from her historical appearances in the largest opera houses in the world.
It is worth noting that other major cultural institutions abroad were interested in her private collection. Its owners consciously chose, however, to donate it to the city of Athens.
Dozens of Greek institutions and private collectors, among them the late artists Alekos Fassianos, Dimitris Mytaras and Panagiotis Tetsis, have made contributions to the new museum.
Some of the items have been donated by Milan’s La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, the Teatro La Fenice in Venice and the Arena di Verona, where Callas made her Italian debut in 1947.
Maria Callas life and Greek heritage
Callas was born Sophia Cecilia Anna Maria Kalogeropoulou on Dec. 2, 1923, in New York, and her family name later shortened to Callas. She lived in Athens from 1937 to 1945 after her parents separated, and beginning performing at the age of 8.
After attending singing classes at the National Conservatory, she made her professional debut with the Royal Opera of Athens in 1941.
Callas met Giovanni Battista Meneghini in Verona, a wealthy industrialist who was passionate about opera, who later became her senior for twenty-eight years. Yet Meneghini did not only become her senior. He also became her impresario and then husband in 1949.
Following an illustrious career spanning more than three decades and a whirlwind romance with Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, Callas died in Paris in 1977.