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Sunday, December 3, 2023

“Callas – Paris, 1958”: A Cinematic Revival of Maria Callas’ Iconic Performance

Culture"Callas - Paris, 1958": A Cinematic Revival of Maria Callas' Iconic Performance

The upcoming film “Callas – Paris, 1958” is set to mesmerize audiences with a vibrant retelling of a pivotal moment in opera history – the night when the legendary soprano Maria Callas captivated Paris with her extraordinary talent. This cinematic journey offers a rare glimpse into a bygone era, resurrecting an iconic performance that has resonated through the decades.

Sixty-five years ago, the Paris Opera was graced by the presence of Callas, a performance that not only enthralled those in attendance but also reached more than 30 million people through a live television broadcast. The event was a who’s who of celebrities, with attendees including Charlie Chaplin, Brigitte Bardot, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, as well as then French president René Coty.

Until recently, the only known recording of this historic event was a black-and-white version, a mere shadow of the live experience. However, film-maker Tom Volf, known for his dedication to preserving and promoting Callas’ legacy, has breathed new life into this piece of history. In 2021, Volf unearthed the original 16-millimeter master reels, long believed to be lost and which had been carefully stored in a basement by the singer herself.

Restoration of these reels has been a monumental task, with Volf and his team painstakingly bringing the colors and details of that night back to life. The result is a revelation, offering a window into Callas’ profound artistry. Her performances of “Casta Diva” from Bellini’s “Norma,” “Miserere” from Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” and a fully-staged performance of Act II of “Tosca” are now showcased in their full, vibrant glory.

Maria Callas, born in New York in December 1923 to Greek parents, is remembered for her incredible contribution to the revival of the Italian bel canto technique. Her passing in 1977 at the age of 53 was a significant loss to the world of music. Yet, through Volf’s efforts, her legacy continues to inspire and awe.

The restored film not only highlights Callas’ vocal prowess but also her remarkable skills as an actress. Volf notes that the color restoration allows audiences to appreciate the nuances of her performances, from her expressive facial gestures to her unique style of “teatro musicale.”

“Callas – Paris, 1958” is scheduled for release in cinemas across 40 countries between November and December, commemorating what would have been Callas’ 100th birthday. Volf emphasizes that the film is crafted not solely for opera aficionados but for a broader audience, capturing the magic and immediacy of experiencing Callas live on stage.

This cinematic tribute to Maria Callas promises to be a feast for the senses, inviting viewers to step back in time and witness the splendor of one of opera’s most illustrious figures. The film stands as a celebration of Callas’ enduring impact on the arts, immortalizing a night that has long been etched in the annals of operatic history.


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