A century after her birth, opera great Maria Callas is honored with a new museum in Greece


ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Finishing her class at The Julliard School of the arts in New York, Greek opera great Maria Callas gave her students a final word of advice.

“Keep on going the proper way: Not with fireworks, not with easy applause, but with the expression of the words, the diction, and to really feel what you feel. That’s what I want. I’m not good at words, so that’s that.”

The March 1972 speech was a detail little known to her admiring public, along with letters, jewellery and countless honors that include a postage stamp series from Kyrgyzstan and Congo.

Now they are on display. The City of Athens inaugurated the Maria Callas Museum in the center of the Greek capital Wednesday, marking a century since the birth to Greek parents of the legendary soprano in New York.

The museum, next to the city’s cathedral and with a view of the Acropolis, opens to the public Thursday, with sections of the museum connected by a red carpet.

The top floors offer a recreated room of her Paris apartment, an imaginary forest and a sound studio, along with recordings of her famed live performances and clips of her lessons at The Julliard School.

Other display areas have exhibits of her costumes, hand-written letters and a sketch of a Callas-inspired Manolo Blahnik design.

“I think we are primarily addressing a person who is the ordinary visitor who might not know much about opera. They might know much about Maria Callas,” museum supervisor Erato Koutsoudaki told The Associated Press.

“So we invite them to start with the spaces where you can listen and watch her perform iconic arias from the great operas. So you can just live it. Then you can learn more about who this woman was and why she was important, on the lowers floors that are more like a conventional museum.”

Born Maria Kalogeropoulos, the singer made her professional debut in Athens as an 18-year-old student and died in Paris aged 53 after a career that some still consider to be unrivalled in opera.

Callas would have turned 100 on Dec. 2, and her life has been honored with a year of artistic events in Greece as well as the upcoming movie “Maria” starring Angelina Jolie.

Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis at the museum’s inauguration thanked the staff and private donors. Many started work on the project when it was conceived 24 years ago, bringing the collection together through auction purchases, donations from private collections and negotiations for display rights with recording companies.

“This is the first museum dedicated to Maria Callas that … combines technology with lived experience,” the mayor said. “We welcome this museum with great joy and deep respect for the great diva.”

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