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Fiction set in USA and EUROPE: the life of Maria Callas

1st December 2023

Diva by Daisy Goodwin, fiction set in USA and Europe: the life of Maria Callas, based on true events.

Autofiction set in USA and EUROPE: the life of Maria Callas

2024 is the Maria Callas centenary. She is also spotlighted in the major V&A exhibition Diva, supported by NET-A-PORTER, which runs until 7 April 2024.

Maria Callas, a century later is still an unrivalled icon for the modern-day story and in this fairly short novel, her life is portrayed with sympathy and style.

The soprano has always been on the periphery of my life because my mother was a great fan, and so the woman with the ravishing dark hair and the flicked eyeliner is an image that has burrowed into my soul. The author, described as the ‘ultimate Callas aficionado‘, learned to sing as a soprano, which must have enabled her to get under the skin of this hugely talented woman. The preciousness and fragility of Maria’s stupendous voice is rendered pitch perfectly in this novel. She subjugated her life and marriage to her art. Her husband, in her early adult years, was Tita Meneghini, whom, she suspected had married her for her voice and not for her as a person. He was her trusted manager and they co-existed until Aritstotle Onassis, the Greek shipping magnate, started to woo her, whilst he himself was married to his wife Tina. Aristotle and Maria came to be the golden couple of Greece.

Callas was utterly seduced by Aistotle’s big gestures, his lovemaking and his attention. Unlike Tita, he didn’t bother to laud her voice, or attend her performances on the operatic stage. She was consumed by his attention, finally ending her marriage with Tita and residing with the Greek for periods on his splendid and opulent yacht Christina and in his Avenue Foch apartment. The boat was quite something, as it accommodated a car below deck for ventures on land, it had a swimming pool and an operating theatre, should the need arise.

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He showered her with expensive jewellery and, I suppose, made her come alive, something which she had only experienced through her singing. The passion of her characters on stage was now mirrored in her own experience as she yearned for her lover during their separations. She was warned about his wandering eye but he assured her that he had found his soul mate in her until, that is, he spotted Lee Radziwill, sister of Jackie Kennedy. Without taking so much as a breath, he then moved on to the recently widowed wife of the president of the USA, Jackie Kennedy, who he married at the drop of a hat. He was nothing to look at but I guess his charisma, persistence and wealth turned many a head. He clearly like the chase.

This is an engaging and very readable story, full of glitz and glamour and stardom, depicting what it might have been like to be Maria Callas, a woman at the height of her fame, desperately searching for the care, approbation and love that had eluded her as a child.

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