Maria Callas’ most iconic photographs, on her 100th anniversary

30 November 2023, 21:06

By Kyle Macdonald

The drama of opera, the glamour of the stage, and a life of fame and celebrity – here are 12 iconic photos from the life of the 20th century’s most beloved diva.

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This Saturday sees the centenary of Greek-American soprano Maria Callas, born in New York on 2 December 1923.

The singer made her professional debut in early 1941 and rose to stratospheric levels of fame in the 1950s and 60s. She was famed for her Verdi, Puccini and bel canto singing, captivating stage presence with a personal life never too far from the celebrity spotlight.

Read more: Who was Maria Callas and why is she one of the greatest opera singers of all time?

  1. Operatic opulence

    Callas made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1956. Here she is a year later, as Empress of Egypt, again in New York.

    As Empress of Egypt in New York, 1957.
    Picture: Alamy
  2. With her portrait

    Maria Callas at the dedication of her portrait in Paris, 1958. Over her career lived for her art, was a consummate actress, and champion of bel canto singing.

    Read more: Maria Callas biopic starring Angelina Jolie: cast, plot release date and music in ‘Maria’ revealed

    Callas at the dedication of her portrait, Paris,1958
    Picture: Getty
  3. A London ‘love affair’

    The famed soprano is snapped in the UK capital, 1958. Callas and the London public had what she called “a love affair”. She spent much time singing roles at the Covent Garden during the 1950s and 60s.

    Maria Callas in London
    Maria Callas in London. Picture: Getty
  4. International diva

    Callas at London’s Heathrow airport, 1958. The soprano frequently travelled between London, Milan and New York, living a life of glamour befitting the age and her celebrity status.

    Callas at Heathrow
    Callas at Heathrow. Picture: Getty
  5. Command as the mythological Medea

    Rehearsing for her title role in Cherubini’s Medea at London’s Covent Garden, 1959.

    Read more: 20 of the greatest sopranos and mezzos of all time

    Callas rehearsing for her title role in 'Medea' at London’s Covent Garden,
    Picture: Getty
  6. Before a worldwide TV interview

    Sitting for a interview in Milan, 1959. The television moment was billed as an intercontinental conversation between three of the biggest names in classical music: Callas in Italy was joined by Sir Thomas Beecham in France and Victor Borge in America.

    CBS TV interview
    CBS TV interview. Picture: Getty
  7. Arrival in New York

    Callas at Idlewild airport after a journey from Milan, 1959.

    Arrival in New York
    Arrival in New York. Picture: Getty
  8. In Paris

    Callas in the fashionable French capital, 1960. Here she was accompanied by her husband, Italian industrialist Giovanni Battista Meneghini, though he is not in shot.

    Maria Callas in Paris
    Maria Callas in Paris. Picture: Getty
  9. An ovation for an operatic great

    The Greek soprano looks to the wings of the stage, during a standing ovation, 1965.

    An ovation
    An ovation. Picture: Getty
  10. Alone in a TV studio

    Filming a feature programme in Paris, 1965. Callas would spend many of her final years in the French capital.

    TV studio
    TV studio. Picture: Getty
  11. At the piano

    From a 1970 photoshoot.

    At the piano
    At the piano. Picture: Getty
  12. At New York's Carnegie Hall

    On stage at Manhattan’s famed hall, 1974. On New York critic said it “would be silly to pretend that Miss Callas has much voice left, but she remains an artist.”

    Her final performance was in November 1974, in Sapporo, Japan. Maria Callas died in Paris in 1977, aged 53.

    At New York's Carnegie Hall
    At New York's Carnegie Hall. Picture: Getty