Costumes that made Callas divine on display

Everyone wants a piece of Maria Callas. Be it Greece, her country of origin, Italy, her adopted stage home, not to mention the United States, where she was born in 1923.

An exhibition showcasing a collection of elaborate costumes worn by the diva opens at the Athens Concert Hall today. The items going on display in the venue?s foyer belong to Milan?s La Scala.

Narrating the story of a legendary artist?s relationship with the landmark theater that hosted a number of her most memorable performances, ?Maria Callas and La Scala? is organized under the auspices of the Italian Embassy in Athens and marks the beginning of a cultural collaboration between the Athens Concert Hall and the Milanese opera house.

Away from all the highs and lows regarding her personal life, the show focuses on Callas?s peak years on stage. The time was the 1950s, when she transformed herself from an awkward albeit sensationally gifted singer into an international star.

Callas?s debut appearance at La Scala took place in 1950, when she replaced fellow soprano Renata Tebaldi in Verdi?s ?Aida.? She was back at the theater a year later. It was nothing short of a glorious time for the singer, who surrounded herself with the era?s most talented artists. She worked with film and stage director Luchino Visconti in ?La Traviata? and ?Anna Bolena? (both at La Scala) as well as with a group of then-up-and-coming gifted conductors including Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan and Carlo Maria Giulini.

Besides her imposing voice, Callas?s domineering stage presence was further accentuated by her costumes and accessories. On display at the Athens Concert Hall are 20 costumes, complemented by audiovisual material and memorabilia.

Designed by Nicola Benois, principal scenographer at La Scala, costume designer and artist Salvatore Fiume, artistic director Piero Zuffi and director Franco Zeffirelli, the garments demonstrate the magnitude of Callas?s influence in the world of opera.

The diva?s final performance at La Scala took place in 1961. Taking on the title role in Luigi Cherubini?s ?Medea,? she was directed by Alexis Minotis and wore costumes designed by Yannis Tsarouchis.

New York show

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, ?Maria Callas: A Woman, a Voice, a Myth,? is currently on display at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York until March 30. Featuring costumes, jewelry and archival material, the exhibition was put together by the Italian Cultural Institute and the Consulate General of Greece in New York.

Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali

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