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maria callas

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For years, I couldn't get over Callas. There is a paparazzi picture of her I had tacked up on my bulletin board in my office. It's a killer-diller! This, to me is Callas.

I knew her - just. One Thanksgiving, I had five or six people in for lunch, people who had no other place to go - Europeans and so forth. A friend called.

"Diane, chere," he said, "may I bring Maria? I think you two should meet. I know she has nothing to do, and as her oldest friend, I don't think I should leave her alone on Thanksgiving. Would it be all right if I brought her?"

"Listen," I said, "can a duck swim?"

So she arrived - the greatest actress in the world. She wore black Milanese clothes; her hair, which she wore in a pony-tail, was literally this thick; her manners were beautiful; she was very, very, sustained emotionally; she made things very clear emotionally - she was everything you would expect of Callas. We sat down at the table. Then, suddenly ... the veil dropped. She was as common as mud. I didn't know anyone could be that ordinaire and still know how to use a knife and fork.

Yet on stage she was the most extraordinary performer I have ever seen in my life - ever. Once we went to see her in Traviata. We were in the second row. I remember the boulevards and the tablecloths and the crowds going by and the men and women having something to say to each other and the men talking to each other about business and the women talking to each other about mmm ... clothes - and however else the chorus starts. Then ... there's a break in the crowd and you see a man and a woman sitting at a table talking and she looks at the audience and a note comes out...

She just opened her throat. But I want to tell you that a tenth of a second later I was totally drenched, I mean totally - it had nothing to do with crying or weeping. It was shock. It was total electricity. I had been prepared to hear the most dramatic singer in the world, but this ... and by God, when she died, was she dead. I've never seen such a death scene.On stage she didn't have a gauche thing about her. She was unique. That's a word I use sparingly.


Diana Vreeland, from Allure