Maria Callas died on September 16, 42 years ago, yet she is as present as ever. Her singing was one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century.
I delight in her interpretation of Lucia di Lammermoor; the duet with the flute is still unmatched (in my humble opinion). In “Quando Rapito in Estasi..” I think a bird on a hot summer day could not have sung any better. Or in “Spargi d’amaro il pianto” she can simply move to tears with her sad singing. Her capacity to transmit emotions was uncomparable.
Her Ties to Verona
Maria Callas arrived in Verona from America in 1947. In New York, she met Giovanni Zenatello, artistic director of the Arena of Verona, in the United States in search of new singers for the opera festival. Giovanni Zenatello hires her to play La Gioconda. Eventually, she meets Giovan Battista Meneghini, a rich industrialist from Verona, a great opera lover who immediately falls in love with her, offering to become her agent.
It is only in 1949 that fame comes. She is in fact called at the last moment to replace Margherita Carosio, indisposed, in I Puritani at Fenice in Venice. It is a resounding success, Callas is now heading for a brilliant career. In 1950 she made her debut at La Scala and a long period of success began.
Meanwhile, after a long and insistent court, Maria Callas decides to marry Giovan Battista Meneghini. The marriage is celebrated in the sacristy of the Church of the Filippini in Verona. Maria, of Greek Orthodox religion, had not wanted to convert to Catholicism. Meneghini leaves the management of the family brick company and devotes himself full time to his wife’s career.
Maria Callas in Zevio
Villa Meneghini in Zevio is the house where Maria Callas lived her Veronese years. When not engaged, Maria Callas lives in her husband’s villa in Zevio, in the Verona countryside. Maria Callas’ years in Zevio were peaceful years. She practiced her arias in the park of Villa Meneghini accompanied by the piano and drinking iced lemonade. The people of the town climb up ladders leaning against the wall surrounding the park to listen to her. When she was not too busy she devoted herself to cooking, learning to prepare some typical dishes of Veronese cuisine like pearà and risotto!
In the town, together with her husband, she attends the “Sports bar“ on Piazza Santa Toscana and the “Commercio bar“ on Piazza Marconi. Today, the municipality of Zevio, together with the Maria Callas Foundation launched an ambitious project to honor the memory of the “Divina” in the lower Veronese country. A museum was inaugurated on December 2008, and further projects as an auditorium to hold concerts related to the Arena season and opera events. In the splendid park where Callas used to try her opera arias, a bronze statue of Maria Callas has been placed.
Maria Callas in Sirmione
In the summer, in the increasingly rare moments of vacation, Maria Callas and her husband spent a few weeks of vacation in the villa in the heart of Sirmione, on Lake Garda, far from the mundane clamor.
In Sirmione Maria Callas arrived for the first time in ’52, the locals still remember her as a simple person, friendly with everyone. She would stopped to have a drink at the Caffé Grand Italia.
In 1959 Maria Callas meets Aristotle Onassis, leaves her husband and begins that troubled love story that we all know, and the rest is history!
Maria Callas never returns to Sirmione, but it seems that she was always a bit nostalgic for Lake Garda.
Today, in Sirmione, in the heart of the peninsula jutting out into the lake, the villa where Callas spent happy moments stands out elegant and solitary.
Likewise in Verona, the places where Maria Callas began her career, lived, loved, sang, can still be visited today, both in Verona and in the province. For information on itineraries and guided tours:
In remembering her my grateful thanks to the unforgettable Maria Calas for her incomparable singing.