Gandhi in heels? The statue of Maria Callas is wrong | Maria callas


Drama in life, drama in posterity. For Maria Callas, Greece’s greatest diva, there is, even 44 years after her death, no relaxation of the artistic quarrels that were her lot.

But this time, the uproar centers on a statue erected at the foot of the ancient Acropolis, opposite the Roman Theater where the world-famous opera singer made her debut.

The 1.8-meter-tall piece, created in honor of the soprano by fans who regard Callas as one of the country’s most unrecognized assets, has been criticized for its kitsch, impropriety and, worse yet , its lack of resemblance to “La Divina”.

The golden sculpture was unveiled by Kostas Bakoyannis, the mayor of Athens, last week, and since then it has been ridiculed in cartoons and created a storm on social media. His opponents have described him as “Gandhi in heels” or compared him to an Oscar statuette without the Hollywood glitz that goes with it.

Callas at the La Scala opera house in Milan in 1959. Photograph: Erio Piccagliani / AP

For Michael Moussou, former opera singer and artistic director of the Athens festival, which is held every summer in the Herodes Atticus theater where Callas first performed, the work commits the cardinal sin of being wrong. posture.

“Nothing could be less representative of Maria Callas, because no opera singer, not even a second year student in music school, would ever adopt such a pose with his arms crossed in front of his chest”, a- he said, noting that to do so would “block vocal production.”

“Opera is singing and… freeing your voice,” he said. “If Callas tried to sing, in real life, in the position designed by the sculptor, the result would be like a violinist trying to play on a broken violin.”

Created by Aphrodite Liti, professor of sculpture at the School of Fine Arts in Athens, the statue was carried out for several years. Approval of the Ephoria (Council) of Modern Monuments and the country’s powerful archaeological watchdog, KAS, was required before it was erected along the cobbled Dionysios Areopagitis boulevard ahead of the celebrations designed to mark the centenary of the artist’s birth in 2023.

Liti was inspired by photographs of the singer provided by the Maria Callas Greek Society, the group of devotees who commissioned the work. An image of the soprano in costume for a performance at the opera La Scala in Milan stood out from her “because of her Greek features, Doric style and simplicity”, and it is on this that ‘she ultimately modeled the work, said the sculptor, responding to the fury.

“I had the joy of studying a unique personality and [the ability] to talk about her out of emotion, ”said Liti, who donated the work to the nation, to the Greek daily Kathimerini.

Few performers have revolutionized opera as much as Callas. Born to Greek immigrant parents in New York City, she was christened Maria Anna Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos before returning to Athens and becoming a celebrity.

But admirers have long complained that, despite being praised for her vocal range overseas, the great dramatic singer has remained under-recognized in her country, where she is best known for her ill-fated affair with the tycoon of the navigation Aristotle Onassis, and by extension his tumultuous relationship. with Greece, than for any of his supreme opera talents.

A four-story museum built in his honor that was supposed to open to the Acropolis six years ago remains an empty shell.

In contrast, the Italians, who also consider Callas one of their own due to her marriage to the industrialist Giovanni Meneghini and her long stay in La Scala, named the streets after the opera singer there. has years.

Liana Skourli, who founded the Maria Callas Greek Society and helped raise funds for the statue, called the criticism “totally unfair”.

The fact that a work in the image of Callas had been erected, she insisted, testified to the “blood and tears” of the daring few who wanted the singer to be owed to her.

“The whole philosophy behind this statue was to promote its Greek character,” she said. “Conveying the inner passion of any celebrity is always difficult for any sculptor. We expected a bit of noise, a bit of commotion, but nothing like it.


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