Maria Callas, Only One Diva - Thought to be Bipolar

Patient Expert

I just noticed that today's Google Doodle celebrates Maria Callas, who would have turned 90 today. Maria Callas, of course, was as celebrated for her temper tantrums as she was for her singing. This, of course, leads to speculation that she may have contended with bipolar.

Let's just say that Ms Callas had personality in abundance. When you think of the word, "diva," only one person should come to mind. Sorry Bette, sorry Barbara, sorry Cher ...

As for all those narcissistic poseurs with the temerity to even cloak themselves in the word, don't get me started.

Got it? There is only ONE diva.

When asked to comment on her operatic rival, the great Renata Tebaldi, Callas responded: "It is like comparing champagne with cognac. No, with Coca-Cola."

Now THAT is a diva.

Callas died in 1977, age 53.  In an obituary, New York Times music critic Harold Schonberg wrote: "More than any singer of the period following World War II, Maria Callas dominated opera, even changing the course of the repertory."

Schonberg is worth quoting at length:

By virtue of sheer determination, she triumphed over her vocal limitations. She immersed herself in her roles, studying every word and every phrase for maximum musical and dramatic effect. Her singing was full of subtle inflections, accentuations, shadings, that were foreign territory to most other sopranos. She extended this kind of superior musicianship to her approach to the stage. Every gesture meant something, every movement and facial expression was aimed toward an emotional or dramatic climax.

Thus in the bel canto operas, which sopranos of the past sang with the limpid innocence of a canary, Miss Callas was able to find hitherto unrealized depth and power. In the large-scale operas, such as "Aida," "Norma" or "La Gioconda," she sang with such focus of concentration that it could be almost a terrifying experience. Even when her voice was not under control, the intensity of her conception made one forget her struggles with pitch and high notes.

Check out this performance. Again, only one diva. I rest my case ...