Music: A Smoky Voice, A Fiery Lady

Maria Callas: 1923-1977

"Have no doubt about who you are," Maria Callas once counseled a student soprano. La Divina, as she was called, was talking about the art of portraying an operatic heroine onstage. But she might have been offering her philosophy of life. She came out of an unhappy childhood—appallingly fat and resentful and lonely—and clawed her way to success and greatness with a singlehearted ferocity that awed even her enemies. Conductor Tullio Serafin, her indispensable mentor in the crucial early days, was tossed aside temporarily—for daring to record La Traviata with...

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