Maria Callas was born Maria Kalogeropoulos in New York City in 1923 to Greek immigrant parents. As a small child she enjoyed listening to gramophone records and radio programmes, and took piano and singing lessons.
Marital and financial problems led Mrs Kalogeropoulos to return to Greece with her two daughters, and in Athens Maria studied under a famous singing master. After several school performances, she was offered a part at the Royal Opera, in Suppé’s ‘Boccaccio’.
In 1940 Greece became engaged in the Second World War, and from time to time Maria performed for the enemy troops. In 1942, she replaced an unwell soprano at the opera to play ‘Tosca’.
When Athens was liberated by the British Forces she worked as an interpreter for some time, but in 1945 decided to return to her father in New York.
She should have debuted in Chicago, but the company went bankrupt. So when Maria was offered a contract for ‘La Gioconda’ in Verona, she gladly went to Italy.
In Italy she met her future husband Meneghini, as well as her mentor Tullio Serafin. Her sensational performance in Wagner’s ‘Walküre’ and two days later in Bellini’s ‘I Puritani’, received worldwide publicity. From then on she was a star, and she received many recording offers from gramophone record companies. These records made her famous and popular the world over.
The press haunted her constantly, and her divorce from Menighini as well as her affair with Aristotle Onassis were covered all over the world. She contracted a throat disease which caused her voice to lose quality, but she refused to take it seriously.
After Onassis’ marriage to Jacqueline Kennedy, Maria suffered a breakdown. She made several attempts to resurrect her career, but her voice was a shadow of its former self and fans were saddened by its deterioration.
She died of heart failure in Paris in September 1977.