“Maria Callas: The Sacred Flame” Lecture by Helena Matheopoulos
Maria Callas: The Sacred Flame
Lecture by Helena Matheopoulos, Associate Editor, Opera Now Magazine
Saturday, November 4, 2023
314 Royce Hall, UCLA
Reception to follow
This event is free to attend but advance RSVP is requested.
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Q&A moderated by Peter Kazaras, Director of Opera UCLA
Forty-five years after her death, Maria Callas (nee Kalogeropoulos) is still worshipped as ardently as she was during her lifetime. Her records outsell those of any other diva, past or present, and she seems to mesmerize a new generation of opera lovers as potently as she bewitched the audiences of her day — a phenomenon unique in the history of opera. “Callas is not just unequaled — she is unequalable!” according to the legendary Italian film, opera, and stage director Luchino Visconti. The Italian press perceptively christened her “La Divina,” thus emphasizing the extra, metaphysical dimension that sets Callas apart from singers of her time and, so far, of all time.
In 2018, she was the subject of a fascinating film by Tom Volf, Maria by Callas. In 2019, the Italian film actress Monica Bellucci starred in a one-woman show with Callas as its subject in Paris, Athens, and elsewhere. In 2020, Marina Abramovic’s extraordinary show The 7 Deaths of Maria Callas was premiered at the Bavarian State Opera — a co-production in five more theaters, including Athens, Naples and Paris in 2021. No wonder Franco Zeffirelli chose to name his own film about her life, Callas Forever.
In fall 2023, the 100th anniversary of her birth, the Mayor of Athens will inaugurate a Maria Callas Museum next to Athens Cathedral. UNESCO has named 2023 “Maria Callas Year” and Opera Houses all over the world are dedicating productions to her memory. “Without doubt,” declares Kiki Morfoniou who sang Neris to her Medea at Epidaurus in 1961, “Maria was The Voice of the Century.”
In fact, Callas was more than that. More than the legend she was in her lifetime or the myth she became after her death. Beyond the magic and searing intensity of her personal performances, she was a pioneer whose career marked a turning point in the history of opera. “She was a comet, who shot through the operatic firmament and changed it forever, by totally transforming operatic interpretation,” according to soprano Barbara Frittoli.
James Levine, former Artistic Director of the Metropolitan Opera, explains that “Callas’ career was revolutionary. She invested opera with an unprecedented degree of musical/dramatic unity and dramatic credibility. This ‘Callas Revolution,’ as it came to be known, was so profound, thorough and far-reaching that, aided by inspired stage directors such as Luchino Visconti, it transformed opera into believable theatre, an art form that could survive and thrive in an era such as ours, whose criteria of dramatic credibility have been shaped and dominated by cinema, television and now, also by digital media. So, one is fully justified in talking about opera BC and AC – before and after Callas.”
Helena Matheopoulos, currently serving as the Associate Editor of Opera Now Magazine, hails from Athens. With a background as a former fashion editor at Tatler and a consistent contributor to The Times (London), Gramophone, and Opera Now, she has garnered recognition for her authorship of several esteemed books on opera. Notable among her literary works are titles such as Placido Domingo, Diva: The New Generation, and Fashion Designers at the Opera. Matheopoulos holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Medieval History from the University College London.
This event is held under the auspices of the Consulate General of Greece in Los Angeles and is made possible thanks to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).
Gefyra (Bridge) is a collaborative program established by the UCLA SNF Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture and the SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University with support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). Gefyra’s mission is to connect students, faculty, and communities along the West Coast of North America with Greek scholars, artists, and other creators, so that they can together explore expansive and imaginative approaches to Greek culture and knowledge production. The program additionally supports academic conferences and cultural projects that bridge the West Coast and Greece.
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