For the first time, 40 years after her death, the most famous opera singer ever tells her own story – in her own words. Maria by Callas features previously unknown footage, unseen photographs, personal Super 8 films, private live recordings, intimate letters and rare behind-the scenes archival footage for the first time in colour.
Tom Volf weaves together these footage, photos, and personal films to gives a somewhat closer glimpse at who Callas was underneath her bigger than life persona. In the documentary, we hear her in an interview say that the “Maria on stage is very different from the Maria in private life.” Her early educator, mentor and friend, Elvira de Hidalgo describes how shy and diligent Callas was from an early age. This shyness did not disappear, but Callas gave an excellent performance (if you will) when in public. She was always aware of the cameras being on her — always seems put together. Callas always commanded a presence and respect, whenever she was in public.
Behind the curtains, Callas was more than her voice. She was a woman with strong opinions, a love for life, who also had desires and needs that were not fulfilled. In this documentary, we get glimpses of her humanity and complexity as a person. “When not performing… I just live… I love to cook. I have a ridiculous and embarrassing hobby. I love recipes… I just tear them down and stick them in a book,” she mentions in an interview. In another, she states, “What can you do when you can no longer trust your husband? Onassis was not the end of our relationship [with Battista] nor the money… Batista didn’t negotiate with the stages and I had to pay the price for it.”
Her love life was not necessarily a success, but she knew it all throughout. Amidst personal and work drama, she would return to the stage again and again. She knew her public loved her. Until the end of her life, she continued to praise her fans… her gift to them was always a most beautiful rendition of O mio babbino caro (which always makes me tear up). Her voice was her means to communicate with the world; it was also her gift to her adoring public. Without her fans, Maria Callas would not have become the icon she continues to be.