In this text, I will describe the second part of Maria Callas’ life story.
In the latest biography of the opera diva Maria Callas, letters unknown to the public have been published, revealing the other side of her life. Among other things, a stormy love affair with Aristotle Onassis, a famous Greek shipowner and billionaire. The fatal encounter took place at a ball in Venice, while the two were married.
She was mortally in love, and he was enchanted by her fame and charisma. Onassis did not understand art, and he could not stand opera. Instead of going to concerts, he preferred to dance in taverns the way it is done in his homeland, and he smashed plates around himself. He often said:
“For me, listening to these arias is like two Italian chefs shouting risotto recipes.”
Well, still, it was remembered that he once bought as many as a hundred tickets to prove to Maria Callas how much he cared to see her on stage. It also happened that he often humiliated her with the words:
“Keep in mind, love, that you are not my wife or housewife in the house. You’re just a guest or you’re like a nightclub singer with a whistle in her throat”.
The Greek billionaire took drugs during their relationship in order to sexually abuse her.
Her husband, three decades older, agent Giovanni Battista Menegini, as well as her father George Kalogeropoulos, did not treat her any worse. In addition, the story that her mother Evangelia Dimitriadou blackmailed her and tried to force her into prostitution is also shocking and unbelievable.
Maria, as a singer, may have been touched by God’s hand, as she often pointed out, but outside of that music world, she was a victim of incredible circumstances, said biographer Lindsay Spence, author of the book “Cast A Diva: The Hidden Life Of Maria Callas”.
New facts about life from letters!
Her tragic destiny has been written about without end, she is a “diva who died of a broken heart”, and almost 50 years after her death, she remains an inexhaustible source of inspiration for authors of all artistic branches.
The legendary Maria has inspired many, so it is not surprising that as many as 30 biographies have been written about her, but only Lindsay managed to find unknown details from her life, and she also gained access to the boxes of her letters that were in the Stanford archives.
From those letters that she exchanged with her husband Giovanni Battista Menegini, it could be seen how submissive and obedient she was to him, what she was really like to everyone.
“She was extremely loyal as a person, which is the complete opposite of her stage version, wild Callas. And when you are like that, it should come as no surprise that you attract abusers, including Menegini and Onassis, but also her parents,” she revealed. Biographer, adding that the biggest abuser in her life was actually her lover Aristotle Onasiss, a billionaire and ship magician, who abused her both mentally and physically, before “throwing her away like an old rag” because of Jackie Kennedy, with whom he married in 1968.
Also, the biographer took possession of the secret diaries of a person close to Maria Callas, who discovered that Onassis was to blame for the singer becoming addicted to the strong sedative metaqualone, as well as to barbiturates.
She voluntarily took that combination of drugs, after which she would fall asleep, all in order for Onassis to satisfy her perverted sexual appetites, which shocked the owner of the famous Parisian brothel at the time.
Allegedly, after putting her to sleep, Onassis abused her in a humiliating way, which would most likely not allow him to be aware of everything.
According to the biographer, Kalasova was already suffering from mental problems at that time, which are a consequence of the pressure due to her career, but also the fact that the years have come. Those pressures intensified when she learned that her Greek lover had a room in his home in Paris modeled on his favorite brothel.
Although he was physically unattractive and bad as a man, Maria Callas was very attracted sexually. Onassis was a bit fond of androgynous-looking women, those who, like the opera diva, were physically exhausted.
Namely, Maria was prone to obesity, which is why she struggled with an eating disorder for most of her life. She kept a drastic diet, measured every bite, and in the end became so emaciated that she could barely walk, all in order to “fit his ideal” as much as possible.
Although rumors circulated that she kept the child with Onassis a secret, those claims were dismissed. Namely, it is known that in the early 60s, while she was still married to Menegini, she became pregnant. But, unfortunately, she experienced a miscarriage, due to her husband’s threat to take away her child.
The data from her youth show that she did not have bad moments only in the moments of glory. She was born in 1923 in New York as Anna Maria Sophia Cecilia in a family of poor Greek immigrants, who treated her badly.
Her parents, Georgije and Lisa, trapped in an extremely unhappy marriage, already had one girl, Jakinti, named Jackie, and their eldest son Vasilis died at the age of two. Because of that, the family was eagerly expecting a son. Therefore, from the moment she saw the light of day, Maria did not miss the opportunity to mention that she was unwanted – out of great disappointment, her mother refused to look at her daughter for four days after giving birth. Lisa openly preferred her older sister, the slender, prettier Jackie.
She didn’t pay too much attention to the chubby, black-faced, short-sighted Maria, until she realized her talent for music.
“From the age of five, and during all the years when I had to play and enjoy, I had to sing and make money. I will never forgive my mother for stealing my childhood,” said Maria Callas.
When she turned 10, she was already performing arias from the opera “Carmen”, and her mother often forced her to perform in front of others.
After her parents’ marriage broke up when she was 14, Maria returned to Athens in 1937 with her mother and older sister Jackie. Her mother hid British soldiers during World War II and prostituted herself with Italian and German soldiers to feed her daughters. She made them do the same.
And while Jackie was under the influence, she set out on that path, Maria managed to win over the soldiers in another way, and they paid her when she sang for them.
She started her music school at the age of 13, and she did not forgive her mother until her death. In 1945, she returned to America to live with her father, and after an audition, she was admitted to the “Metropolitan Opera” in New York.
When she became famous, her mother emotionally blackmailed her, in order to get hold of her money.
She threatened suicide, released false stories in the media …
Her father was no better, who also shamelessly took his daughter’s money, and once even lied to her to die just to get money. But Maria could not say “no” to them.
She herself admitted that she is especially sensitive to those who show at least a little emotion for her.
“With the kindness of people, I can get everything from me, and I can make a fool of me,” said Kalasova, who spent her whole life looking for love that her parents did not give her.
It should come as no surprise that this is exactly why she thought Giovanni Battista would give her love.
When she married him, she was 23 years old, in secret, in a remote room of a church, and she had no money in her pocket. Although Menegini was 27 years older than her, they married in 1949, and he financed her and took care of her career. Allegedly, he did not want to start a family, wanting it to work to the last atom of strength in order to earn as much as possible.
He hid her earnings in secret accounts in Swiss banks, but also by paying his debts to them.
“I was a fool to trust him,” she wrote in one of her letters, and revealed that he was not faithful to her. Menegini loved barely adult girls.
Meeting with Aristotle Onassis
And then Aristotle Onassis entered her life. She met him in 1957 at a ball in Venice. He seduced her by sending her bouquets of flowers, and she didn’t mind. Maria even admitted that she actually makes her happy that she is attractive to such a man and that he looks at her as a sexy woman.
They became lovers only in the summer of 1958, when Kalasova and her husband responded to the invitation to join Winston Churchill and his family on a three-week cruise on Onassis’ luxury yacht “Kristina”, which was hosted by him and his then wife Tina.
According to the stories, Churchill’s family was horrified by the behavior of the opera diva, especially when she fed Onassis with ice cream on a spoon. But she ignored it.
When they started the affair, she saw his real face, but she was still loyal to him and suffered his violence. The fact that Maria was his mistress did not stop him from seeing other women, including Jackie Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwill.
Although many thoughts that their love story was a fairy tale, the biographer claims that it is not true. It was also rumored that Onassis almost killed her once when he physically attacked her and beat her. He once slapped her in front of the company, calling her derogatory names.
But, he rewarded each blow with expensive gifts, especially jewelry, and she did everything he wanted – she was his escort in strip clubs, and in bed, at his request, she wore diamonds.
And her encounter with drugs happened even before her relationship with Onassis, and that happened in New York when she met Max Jacobson, also known as Dr. Feelgood, who injected celebrities with “vitamin injections” to increase their endurance, and he was full of amphetamines and methamphetamine’s.
This continued during the affair with Onassis, who mentally destroyed her, realizing how insecure she was, especially because of her weight.
When he married Jackie, the widow of John F. Kennedy, in 1968, it seemed that their relationship had come to an end.
However, a month after the wedding on the private Greek island of Scorpios, Onassis wanted to return to the opera diva. She agreed only after his threats that his car would crash through her door.
“When they went to the bedroom, he took everything off and went to bed, but she threw him out,” the biographer wrote, adding that only then did Maria gather enough strength to drive him away.
All that left consequences for her voice, so she had to withdraw from the music scene. She spent her retirement days at her home in Paris, watching television and overeating with ice cream in the company of her sister.
Fighting for a career
And while her private life was obviously collapsing, Maria Callas conquered world operas. Her voice did not have the classical beauty, although it ruled the range of three octaves, they described it as screaming, with a metallic undertone. She voted for the master of “bel canta” because of her crystal clear colors, but above all, powerful interpretations, musical intelligence, ingenious phrasing and pathos that radiated from each of her notes. Tragic opera heroines in her voice would come to life, and lead the audience to ecstasy and catharsis. Today, you will rarely hear anyone criticize Maria Callas, but the truth is that, to the same extent that she fascinated people with her songs, they belittled her so much. Her voice trembled in the most important moments, her technique was often not up to standard, and at performances in large operas such as “Metropolitan”, they knew how to shoot cabbage heads on stage. Still, she sold out every hall, and both those who adored her and those who hated her grabbed tickets.
She gave arrogant and arrogant interviews, openly calling her mother abusive and comparing her voice to champagne. Her decline, will be unanimously confirmed by all connoisseurs, began when in 1957 she met the shipbuilding magnate, the Greek Aristotle Onassis. They were both married at the time, but that didn’t stop them from starting a fiery love affair that would last until his death in 1975.
With all that, her voice was declining. Mental disorders, undiagnosed neurological disease and terrible starvation, left her without a single trump card.
The last years of life
She spent the last years of her life alone, and she died in 1977, as a result of a heart attack, at the age of 53.
The biographer managed to get in touch with a neurologist who treated Maria Callas before her death and who discovered that she had suffered from dermatomyositis for a long time, an inflammatory disease that affected her central nervous system and caused her progressive muscle weakness.
However, since the doctors called her a hypochondriac before, instead of helping her, she turned to sleeping pills that ruined her life, but also her voice, which is why she ended her career prematurely.
Maria Callas was a diva in the true sense of the word. Today, she lives in a legend: this fragile, neurotic prima donna is called “La Divine”, honored with the titles of the best soprano of all time, the unsurpassed opera goddess. But the world in which Maria Callas lived was significantly different. During her life, she received more rebuke than praise, she endured painful criticism, first growing up in a cruel and cold family, then under the brutal lights of the stage, and the greatest pain was given to her by lovers, which I wrote about in the previous two contents dedicated to the greatest opera diva !!
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