CA’ VENDRAMIN CALERGI
from 2nd to 25th AUGUST 2007
Maria Callas and Venice
Maria Callas first displayed her talents as a truly great singer sixty years ago, here in Venice, when she debuted at the “La
Fenice” theatre as Isolde, followed, just a few days later, by her performance in “Turandot”. Over the next seven years
the Teatro del Selva played host to her memorable performances, from Elvira to Norma, and from Violetta to Lucia di
Lammermoor to Medea, a period which firmly established her reputation as a unique opera singer and helped shaped
the legend of Callas the young prima donna. After 1954, Maria Callas never sang again at “La Fenice”, but she always
remained extremely fond of Venice whose mysterious appeal enchanted her. Now the city has decided to return this
compliment and pay tribute to the great diva by naming the bridge and walkway leading to the old “La Fenice” gate
and new “Aldo Rossi” hall after her.
Sixty years after Maria came to Venice for the first time and thirty years on from her death, Ca’ Vendramin Calergi is
staging an exhibition entitled “The Encounter, the Enchantment”. This includes memorabilia, stage costumes, documents,
jewellery, films, books and letters all collected over years of research with discernment and love by Bruno Tosi. This exhibition first went on display in the Olivetti Exhibition Hall and then toured the world from Paris to New York and
from Athens to Tokyo and onto Rome, receiving huge applause from both public and critics. Having been extensively
enlarged and updated the exhibition has now returned to Venice at the invitation of the Casinó Municipale di Venezia
Spa, and is ready to offer visitors a very special opportunity to relive the life story and art of a woman who rightly
became known as “Callas, La Divina”.
The Mayor of Venice
When we say the words “Maria Callas”, what we wish to recall more than anything else is her marvellous voice and unique artistic talent. Maria’s loss has left a gap that can never be filled, at least from an artistic point of view, given that everyone continues to refer to her, even after all these years, as “La Divina”.
Venice and especially the “La Fenice” theatre had a special place in Maria’s heart as this was the stage on which her young talents were able to reach the ears of the general public.
The Casinó di Venezia, whose own history is inseparably entwined with that of Venice, has therefore decided to pay tribute to “La Divina” and her love for this city with a series of celebrations. These begin with this major exhibition and end on September 16, 2007 (the thirtieth anniversary of her death) with a performance by Dimitra Theodossiou, the soprano considered to be Maria Callas’ heir. The concert, featuring a selection of “La Divina’s” best loved songs, will be held at “La Fenice” theatre in Venice.
Professor and Lawyer Mauro Pizzigati
President of the Casinó di Venezia
MARIA CALLAS: THE ENCOUNTER, THE ENCHANTMENT
“Maria Callas - declared Maestro Riccardo Muti on the day after her tragic and premature loss in 1977 (this year Venice
and the whole world celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of her death) was almost an immortal incarnated through the
art of opera. Maria Callas - he continued - has done for singing what Toscanini did for conducting”.
Maria was an artist that truly made her mark in history, an artist who created a legend that will continue to live far into the future. No other singer has been so adored or so abhorred. Maria dominated the opera scene for over twenty years like a nineteenth century diva, revolutionizing the concept of opera performance and restoring the art of bel
canto to the stage. Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi would have given her a standing ovation. And she had a natural
affinity, not for the great voices of her day, but for Maria Malibran, Giuditta Pasta and Giulietta Grisi, the very
first Normas, the very first La Sonnambulas. We are not here, however, to honour only the thirtieth anniversary of
Maria’s premature death at the age of just 53 (legends never die after all), but also the more festive sixtieth anniversary
of her debut in Italy and in Venice in December 1947 with Tristan and Isolde. Maria sang regularly at the “La Fenice”
theatre up until 1954, performing some of the most demanding roles in her repertoire, from Norma to La Traviata, and
from Lucia di Lammermoor to Medea. But her real triumph came in 1949 with the role of Elvira in I Puritani, just a
few days after singing Brünnhilde in Die Walküre. With this performance Maria invented the figure of the agile
dramatic soprano, a novelty for the twentieth century! In recognition of her love for Venice this exhibition does
not focus on Maria’s opera career alone, it also features photos of her on the beach at the Lido flaunting an
enviably slim figure after her drastic weight loss, photos of her at the Venice Film Festival, at a party given by
Elsa Maxwell in her honour at the Hotel Danieli in 1957 where she met Aristotle Onassis for the first time and
who also appears at her side in numerous photos taken at the Excelsior.
All Maria’s conspicuous lifestyle is fondly recalled in this exhibition “The Encounter, the Enchantment”, currently being held in the prestigious salons of Casinó di Venezia in Ca’ Vendramin Calergi.
Visitors can enjoy the magical thrill of her triumphant stage entrances as well as the appeal of
her feminine charm. They can also relive her sad decline and the desperation of her last desperate
days when she retreated into solitude to let her life slowly ebb away.
The last images of Maria in fact cannot help but fill the heart with dismay and tenderness. Everything is here. From her stage costumes to her own elegant outfits, the jewels she used on and off stage, letters to other celebrities such as her teacher De Hidalgo and the much-loved Pasolini (including his portrait and poems and her passionate
letters both during rehearsals for Medea and in the years that followed), and a
number of her most precious belongings.
There really is nothing missing here. From her birth certificate to her will, this exhibition is a complete photographic portrait of her life and career.
President of the Maria Callas Association
AFTER BEING STOLEN IN ATHENS, CALLAS’ FAMOUS DRESS RETURNS TO VENICE
This wonderful white silk dress decorated with large red flowers, created for Maria Callas in 1957 by the designer Biki,
has had a long and stormy existence.“La Divina” wore it only three times, and all in 1957: at the Venice Film Festival,
on her return to Greece at the Herod Atticus amphitheatre below the Parthenon and to pose for Maestro Silvano Caselli,
who painted the only official portrait of the diva ever commissioned.
Maria Callas gave the dress to her governess who cut a piece off the train. When the dress was first put on show it was arranged
in a frame as it appeared in the portrait, which was sadly lost when “La Fenice” theatre was tragically destroyed
by fire in 1996. Maestro Caselli subsequently created a new portrait with Maria in the foreground, in the same famous
dress and in the same position as the original painting, and with “La Fenice” theatre in flames in the background. A
24-colour screen printed edition of the new portrait was also made. On the last day of the recent exhibition organised
on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of Maria’s death in Greece by the Italian Embassy, and in particular by the
Head of the Institute of Culture, Melita Palestini, together with the Greek Cultural Affairs Minister in person, the dress was
stolen. Fortunately, the thief’s actions, which were probably prompted more by his love for “La Divina” than mercenary
motives, were filmed in close-up by the closed circuit surveillance cameras and news of the theft hit the world headlines,
with especially wide press and television coverage in Greece. Feeling hounded by the police, the young man eventually
responded to an appeal made by the President of the Callas Association and the Italian Embassy and returned the dress
in an anonymous envelope to the Institute of Culture in Patission Street, Athens. Painstakingly restored to its frame the
dress has now returned to Venice for the exhibition staged at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi.
THE MARIA CALLAS TRIBUTE CONCERT
On September 16, 2007 at 08.00 pm,
exactly thirty years on from Maria Callas’ tragic death, the Casinò di Venezia,
together with the Associazione Culturale Maria Callas and the
Teatro La Fenice di Venezia,
will stage a special tribute concert in honour of “La Divina”.
a soprano known the world over as Callas’ heir will sing a selection
of the arias that made “La Divina” famous.
An exceptional voice to commemorate the most unforgettable opera singer ever.
For more information:
Teatro La Fenice, (+39) 041. 78.65.11, Casinò di Venezia, (+39) 041 52.97.111 - www.casinovenezia.it
Advance ticket sales From the Hellovenezia circuit: call center (+39) 041 24.24 - www.hellovenezia.com
or at any of the various sales points in Venice or on the mainland.