A: Terrence McNally Pf: 1995, Philadelphia Pb: 1995 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Stage, Juilliard School, New York, 1972 C: 3m, 3fMaria Callas, approaching 50, with an internationally successful career behind her, has retired from singing and is teaching opera to young students. By turns imperious, charming, arrogant, amusing, bitchy, and vain, she speaks of her past and instructs a soprano, Sophie De Palma, in Amina's aria from Bellini's La sonnambula. In a flashback she recalls the words of Aristotle Onassis: ‘You give me class. I give you my wealth.’ She then relives her greatest moment at La Scala, when the director Visconti brought the houselights up on her final aria as Amina to reveal the audience of glitterati in the stalls. Her second student is a soprano called Sharon Graham, who wishes to sing the Letter Scene from Verdi's Macbeth. When Maria criticizes her gown, Sharon disappears from the stage. Her place is taken by a tenor, Tony Candolino, who sings Cavaradossi's aria from Puccini's Tosca. He has a beautiful voice but little imagination. Sharon returns from being sick in the toilets. When she shows Sharon how to sing the aria, Maria's ageing voice is now ‘a voice in ruins’. There is a flashback to Maria's debut performance at La Scala as Lady Macbeth in 1952. Maria advises Sharon to sing simpler roles, and Sharon accuses Maria of being envious of anyone younger. Maria's final advice to her students is to ‘sing properly and honestly’.
A: Terrence McNally Pf: 1995, Philadelphia Pb: 1995 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Stage, Juilliard School, New York, 1972 C: 3m, 3f
Maria Callas was the most charismatic singer of the 20th century, and this play demands a central performance which can recapture the size of Callas's personality. The poignancy of her ‘voice in ruins’ is not quite accurate: after teaching opera, Callas undertook another international tour, and while her voice was not all it had been, she still enthused her audiences.