By Renee Maltezou
ATHENS (Reuters) – From a sample of her hair to a blue velvet dress she wore after the memorable 1955 performance of Verdi’s La Traviata in Milan’s La Scala, visitors to Athens can now marvel at items belonging to opera diva Maria Callas in a new museum dedicated to the legendary soprano.
Housed in a three-storey neoclassical building in the heart of the capital, it opens its doors on Thursday and coincides with the influential singer’s 100th birthday on Dec. 2.
Callas’ prescription glasses, costumes, and a notebook she used to memorise parts of her roles are among the items on display, which have been either donated or loaned to the museum.
A sketch of a design by luxury shoemaker Manolo Blahnik, inspired by the soprano, who became one of the 20th century’s most iconic opera figures, has been donated by the Maria Callas Greek Society along with hair which the diva’s hairdresser had kept and sold at an auction.
“Each item contributes in creating a comprehensive image of this astonishing woman,” Kostis Bitzanis, the museum’s project director told Reuters.
“Maria Callas is one of the biggest brand names world-wide, she is a woman who became a legend,” he said.
Born Maria Anna Sophie Cecilia Kalogeropoulos in New York in December 1923 to Greek parents, Callas was credited with the almost single-handed revival of the Italian bel canto vocal technique.
On the second floor of the museum, visitors can listen to parts of Callas’ signature performances, including the aria “Casta Diva” from Bellini’s opera “Norma”, and hear her teaching at the Julliard School in New York in 1971-1972.
“Keep on going … in the proper way, not with the fireworks, not with the easy applause,” Callas tells her students in a farewell speech in March 1972.
Callas died of a heart attack in 1977 aged 53.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou, editing by Deborah Kyvrikosaios)