Maria by Callas: A documentary on the life of the famed opera singer
8 December 2018
From France, Tom Volf’s Maria by Callas is an engrossing documentary about the legendary Greek-American opera soprano. An intimate portrait of Maria Callas (1923-1977) is presented through archival material, television interviews, home movies, family photographs and unpublished memoirs. Opera star Joyce DiDonato reads Callas’ words, when recordings of Callas are unavailable.
Volf’s research is meticulous. He tracked down a global array of people with expertise on Callas, filming interviews with 30 of the singer’s friends in nearly a dozen countries who “opened up their cupboards and pulled out 8mm films, audio tape reels, letters, and photos. He quickly realized that a large part of this memorabilia was previously unseen and had never been shown in public before,” according to the movie’s production notes.
Says Volf: “I understood very quickly that she was not only a phenomenon in her lifetime, she was still a phenomenon in 2013, nearly four decades after her death.”
One of the film’s highlights is Callas’ 1970 interview with commentator and television host David Frost. Portions of the 17-minute interview are interspersed throughout the documentary, which toggles between her career and personal life. A key theme of Maria by Callas is Maria’s comment to Frost, “There are two people in me actually, Maria and Callas … If someone really tries to listen to me, he will find all of myself there.” Volf is adept at presenting, as he says, “how the two communicate and sometimes struggle, and sometimes sacrifice one to the other.”
One segment shows dedicated young people waiting, and sleeping, on line in New York City for a…