One of the most influential opera soprano was American-born Greek Maria Callas born on December 2, 1923. Her wide ranging voice and flair for the dramatic gave her a head's up in the classical opera scene. She sang the works of Verdi and Puccini, Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini. Early in her career she sang to the music dramas of Wagner. She was known as La Divina.
Callas was born in New York City and received her musical education in Greece. Callas established her career in Italy. Callas dealt with poverty during the war and myopia that left her blind onstage. She had struggles and scandals over the course of her career. She turned from a heavy woman in a svelte and glamorous lady which actually contributed to her diminished vocal range. She was high temperamental and had a strong enmity to Renata Tebaldi and an interesting affair with Aristotle Onassis. Her personal tragedies have often been reported more than her artistic achievements.
Callas appeared in several roles at the Greek National Opera. She made her professional beginning in 1941 as Beatrice in Boccaccio. Callas sang in Fidelio, Cavalleria rusticana and O Protomastoras at the foot of the Acropolis.
Callas debuted in the Italian theater in Gioconda at the Arena de Verona. Callas encountered Giovanni Battista Meneghini in Verona and they married in 1949. Meneghini was Callas' mentor and managed her career. In 1949 Callas was hired to sing Elivra in I puritani. Her performance was flawless which lead to her singing Lucia de Lammermoor, La traviata, Anna Bolena, and Medea. In 1951 Callas made her stand at La Scala in Invespri siciliani. La Scala came her artistic venue throughout the 1950s.
In 1954 Callas lost almost 80 pounds and became the most beautiful lady on the stage. However, her weight loss made it difficult for her to support her voice and triggered vocal strain. Her last years were filled with scandal and her last public performance was in 1975 in Sapporo, Japan. Maria Callas died on September 16, 1977 of a heart attack. She was only 53.