Maria Callas was the greatest dramatic soprano of her generation, possessed of an electrifying stage presence and supremely able to communicate the intensity of emotion that opera requires. Her personal life was almost as dramatic as the operas in which she sang. Her fiery temperament led her into feuds with opera managements and rivalries with other singers, while her glamour and her love affair with Onassis made her a regular subject of newspaper society and gossip columns. Much of the drama of Callas’s life is conveyed in Master Class, both in Maria’s personal reminiscences and in her interactions with her students. She is presented as a contradictory figure. She is proud and egotistical, rude and supercilious, yet she is also vulnerable and self-pitying. She is highly dedicated to her art, which she regards as sacred.
However, the character of the diva, although it supplies much of the entertainment in the play, is not its primary focus. Master Class is, most important, an exploration of the nature of dramatic singing; it is the playwright’s interpretation of the secret of Callas’s extraordinary success.
Maria’s instruction to her students falls into two categories that she emphasizes again and again in the play. First, opera singing is a demanding profession. It requires hard work, discipline, and commitment over a lifetime. There are no shortcuts to success. Second, the singer must be able to totally inhabit...
(The entire section is 494 words.)