Accessibility links

|

Sign In
Basket
Basket

Maria Callas

Soprano

Biography

Maria Callas in action.
Maria Callas as Violetta in La Traviata © 1958 Roger Wood / Royal Opera House Collections

Greek-American soprano Maria Callas (1923–77) was one of the greatest interpreters of Italian Classical opera of her generation, and remains one of opera's most famous stars. She made her Royal Opera House debut in 1952 as Norma and later sang Aida, Leonora (Il trovatore), Violetta (La traviata), Medea and Tosca. It was at the Royal Opera House that she made her final operatic appearance, singing Tosca on 5 July 1965.

Callas was born Maria Kalogeropoulou in New York. She moved to Athens in 1937 and enrolled at the Athens Conservatory as a pupil of Elvira de Hidalgo. She made her debut as Tosca in Athens in 1942. In 1947 her success in the title role of La Gioconda at the Arena di Verona launched her career in Italy, subsequent engagements including Aida, Turandot, Isolde and Kundry (Parsifal). In 1949 she stepped in at short notice to sing Elvira (I puritani), where her gift for bel canto was revealed. She went on to concentrate on Classical Italian opera, her signature roles including Norma, Médée, Anna Bolena, Lucia di Lammermoor, Verdi's Lady Macbeth, Violetta and Tosca. Callas was crucial to the revival of bel canto opera, singing many challenging roles, such as the lead role in Haydn's L'anima del filosofo at its world premiere in 1951.

Callas's voice was at its finest in the early 1950s, renowned for its colour and agility. Throughout her career she was renowned for the instinctive musicality, intelligence and brilliant dramatic presence she brought to all her roles.

Videos

News and features

ENO celebrates the life of Lord Harewood

ENO celebrates the life of Lord Harewood

20 June 2014

English National Opera hosts a special gala performance in celebration of the life of a crucial figure in British opera.

Musical Highlight: 'Vissi d'arte' from Tosca

Musical Highlight: 'Vissi d'arte' from Tosca

1 May 2014

A hypnotic moment of stillness in Puccini's operatic thriller.

Renato Cioni: A look back at the tenor's Covent Garden performances

Renato Cioni: A look back at the tenor's Covent Garden performances

5 March 2014

The Italian tenor, who recently died, starred in Franco Zeffirelli's iconic production of Tosca with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi.

BFI to run Opera on TV season

BFI to run Opera on TV season

3 March 2014

Highlights include a screening of Zeffirelli's 1964 Tosca starring Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi.

Border Control: La Fille du régiment's influence on Italian opera

Border Control: La Fille du régiment's influence on Italian opera

1 March 2014

A look at the surprising influence Donizetti's charming opéra comique had on 19th-century Italian opera.

A tribute: 100 years since the birth of Tito Gobbi

A tribute: 100 years since the birth of Tito Gobbi

24 October 2013

A look back at the career of the admired operatic baritone.

Photos