Greece honored Maria Callas by opening the first museum dedicated to the opera legend in Athens a century after her birth.
The Maria Callas Museum at 44 Mitropoleos Street features recordings of her most famous opera performances as well as little-known details of the private life of the singer who died in Paris at age 53.
“The significance of the museum is great for Athens and for Greece, because Maria Callas is one of the biggest brand names worldwide, she is a woman who became a legend. And although there are several societies (celebrating Callas) for years, there has never been a museum dedicated to her,” Kostis Bitzanis, Project Director of the Maria Callas Museum told Reuters.
The museum opens to the public on Thursday following a 24-year effort to gather her costumes and other personal items from auctions and private collections.
The beginning of the collection dates to 2000, under then-mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, when the city took part in an international auction of Callas memorabilia in Paris.
In the following years, the collection was enriched by donations from several agencies and individuals such as the Maria Callas Greek Society and Constantine and Victoria Pylarinos, as well as by long-term loans. Currently, it includes nearly 1,000 items.
Maria Callas Museum recreates the room of her Paris apartment
The museum’s top floors offer a recreated room of her Paris apartment, an imaginary forest and a sound studio, along with recordings of her famed live performances and clips of her lessons at The Julliard School.
Other display areas have exhibits of her costumes, hand-written letters and a sketch of a Callas-inspired Manolo Blahnik design.
“I think we are primarily addressing a person who is the ordinary visitor who might not know much about opera. They might know much about Maria Callas,” museum supervisor Erato Koutsoudaki told The Associated Press.
“So we invite them to start with the spaces where you can listen and watch her perform iconic arias from the great operas. So you can just live it. Then you can learn more about who this woman was and why she was important, on the lower floors that are more like a conventional museum.”
Built in the interim periods between the two World Wars, the Museum’s four-story building housed the 20-room Hotel Royal until the ’60s.
It was declared a historic building and was bought by the municipality in 2010 to house city services until the municipality decided to house the museum.
Outgoing mayor Kostas Bakoyannis thanked those who contributed to the project and said, “Athens had an outstanding debt of honor to the legendary Greek soprano. The Maria Callas Museum, the first such museum in the world, makes us all very proud.”
Between Thursday and Saturday, the Museum will be free to the public.