Drama in life, drama in posterity. For Maria Callas, Greece’s greatest diva, even 44 years after her death, there is no abandonment of the artistic quarrel that was her lot.
But this time, the uprising is focused on a statue erected at the foot of the ancient Acropolis, opposite the Roman theater, where the world-famous opera singer made his debut.
The 1.8-meter-high work, created in honor of the soprano by fans who consider Callas one of the country’s most overlooked assets, has been criticized for being kitsch, inappropriate and, even worse, not resembling “La Divina”.
The golden sculpture was unveiled by Kostas Bakoyannis, the mayor of Athens, last week, and ever since, it has been ridiculed in cartoons and generated a storm on social media. Opponents have complained that it is more redolent of “Ghandi in heels” or an Oscar statuette – without the accompanying Hollywood glitter – than the prime of all donnas.
For Michael Moussou, a former opera singer and artistic director of the Athens Festival, held every summer at the Herod’s Atticus Theater, where Callas first appeared, the work commits cardinal sin by getting his posture wrong.
“Nothing could be less representative of Maria Callas, as no opera singer, not even a second-grade student at the music school, would ever assume such a bag with folded arms in front of her chest,” he said, noting that to do so would “block voice production.”
“Opera is about singing and… releasing the voice. If Callas were to try to sing in reality in the attitude conceived 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 Athens School of Fine Arts, the statue was several years in the making. Approval from the ephorate (council) of modern monuments and the country’s powerful archaeological watchdog, KAS, was required before it was erected next to the cobbled Dionysios Areopagitis boulevard before the festivities that were 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. A picture of the soprano in costume for a performance at Milan’s opera house La Scala stood before her “because of its Greek features, Doric style and simplicity”, and it was on this that she ultimately modeled the work, the sculptor said, responding to furore .
“I got the pleasure of studying a unique personality and [the ability] to talk about her through emotions, ”Liti, who has donated the play to the nation, told the Greek daily Kathimerini.
Few artists have revolutionized opera as much as Callas. Born to Greek immigrant parents in New York, she was christened Maria Anna Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos before returning to Athens and rising to stardom.
But admirers have long complained that the great dramatic singer, while becoming a lion for her vocal range abroad, remained inadequately recognized at home, where she is better known for her fateful affair with ship magnate Aristotle Onassis and in continuation of her stormy relationship with Greece , than for any of her superior operational skills.
A four-story museum built in her honor and due to open within sight of the Acropolis six years ago is still an empty shell.
In contrast, Italians, who also see Callas as one of their own because of her marriage to industrialist Giovanni Meneghini and her long stay at La Scala, have named streets after the opera singer many years ago.
Liana Skourli, who founded the Maria Callas Greek Society and helped raise funds for the statue, described the criticism as “totally unfair”.
That a work had been erected in Calla’s picture at all, she insisted, was proof of the “blood and tears” of the hardy few who wanted to see the singer give her decay.
“The whole philosophy behind this statue was about promoting her Greekness,” she said. “Communicating the inner passion of any celebrity is always difficult for any sculptor. We expected some noise, some trouble, but nothing like this. ”
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