> The Unknown Callas [LKD: Book Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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The Unknown Callas, the Greek years.

Nicholas Petsalis-Diomidis.

Amadeus Press. ISBN 1-57467-059-X

  AmazonUK  £29.99 AmazonUS $27.96



Brilliant! Fascinating and very well written.

The 20th century has had some first rate female singers from the sublime Geraldine Farrar to the great Maria Callas!

It is not always remembered that Callas lived in Greece from 1937 to 1945 (aged thirteen to twenty one) and here she developed into the sensational singer she became.

There are some tremendous insights in this book, notably what a splendid father George Kaloyeropoulos was to Mary, as Maria was called, and how equally good he was to the elder daughter Jackie. But his marriage to Litsa was a mistake. She was a dreadful woman. Jackie called her a tyrant. She was incapable of showing love or affection. Litsaís dominance made George weak since he hated confrontations as he knew it could damage the girls emotionally. Mary was only happy when not with her mother. When Mary was knocked down and could have been killed all her mother could do was to chastise her. On another occasion Litsa took an overdose of belladonna. This probably ended her marriage to the dependable George.

When Maryís talents were realised her mother took over and therefore planted further seeds of anxiety and personality problems in Mary. It is the Lillian Roth story all over again. To add to the difficulties Mary was plump and called 'the fat girl'. This added to her unhappiness. Her mother used to dress her in a sort of black smock with a white collar which dress was often dirty. She did not want any young fellow to take Mary away from her which might have happened if the youngster was nicely dressed.

The family left New York to return to Greece in 1937 and Mary went to the Athens Conservatory where the legendary Elvira de Hidalgo taught. Athens had other great musicians such as Manolis Kalomiris and Dimitri Mitropoulos.

Mary made her debut in Cavalleria Rusticana in Athens in 1939.

Buy the book which also includes details of Callasís life after the Greek years. It reveals how Onassis abused her just as her mother had. She lost a child with him and when she fell pregnant again he insisted on an abortion! Is this what ended her career? Her last performances were sad. She was tired, ill and emotionally drained

Incidentally. she was versatile. Unlike other singers she did not stick to Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini.

Linda Karen Dowson


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