The Tragic Story Of An Opera Diva Who Died From A Broken Heart - Cultura Colectiva

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The Tragic Story Of An Opera Diva Who Died From A Broken Heart

[Listen to “Un bel di bedremo,” from Madame Butterfly]You can’t die of a broken heart, or at least that’s what I believed before hearing the story of Maria Callas. How could that happen to a woman who charmed people with her magical voice? A captivating woman, and one of the greatest opera singers of all time, she is […]



[Listen to “Un bel di bedremo,” from Madame Butterfly]





maria callas opera car


You can’t die of a broken heart, or at least that’s what I believed before hearing the story of Maria Callas. 

How could that happen to a woman who charmed people with her magical voice? A captivating woman, and one of the greatest opera singers of all time, she is remembered for her many
 roles in opera performances, particularly that of Madama Butterflythe protagonist of an oriental tale about a short-lived romance. The character waits for her beloved to come back from abroad, to be with him, and the son he left her with, once again. That role now appears to be a foreshadowing of Callas’ fate and cause of death. The only difference was that singer would have to die over and over again, whenever she was called to the stage.

maria callas opera black
Callas was unique and irreplaceable for everyone except the man she came to love with all her heart. Her life seems to have been that of a tragic heroine from the start. She was born on December 2, in New York City, in a family that only caused her despair and suffering. She was neglected by her parents, who had been expecting a son when she was born. Her mother often compared her with her older sister, the one that she considered to be a living representation of beauty, perfection, and femininity.

maria callas opera in sofa
The little attention she received from her mother, as well as the fact that during her teens she reached a weight of 220 lbs, was short-sighted, with a protruding nose, oddly large arms, disproportionate thighs, and steep eyebrows, made her be an outsider. Who would have never imagined that in the future she would become one of the most beloved icons in the world? Callas became the greatest opera diva after those tortuous years. During those years, musician and Spanish soprano Elvira Hidalgo was her solace and inspiration to show the world what she was capable of.



maria callas opera grace kelly
She was radiant, elegant, strong, and a little bit arrogant. She made her debut in 1942, at the Greek National Opera, in Puccini’s Tosca. Since it was an enormous success, roles rained down on her. Every opera production wanted her as part of their cast. That’s how she met Giovanni Battista, a businessman who married her when she was only 24 and he was 55 years old. He respected and idealized her. In a way, he polished her, so she could reach her full potential and transcend time. By his side, she tried to conquer La Scala —the renowned opera house in Milan— but was rejected. Thus, she continued practicing her technique until she created that iconic style and allure that we remember to this day.

maria callas opera  classical hat


The second time in La Scala, she finally proved the world what she was capable of and why she would become one of the most important opera singers in history. She became the muse of many directors like Pasolini, Visconti, and Bernstein, who wanted her to take roles in their films. However, during that time of glory, she also met the person who would destroy her life: Aristotle Onassis.

Her first encounter with Onassis took place in 1959. Although she was still married, she fell desperately in love with the Greek millionaire, whose appearance would remind you of a mobster. Despite his rudeness and arrogance, Callas left Battista while Onassis had no plans to leave his wife or family. He saw Callas as a pastime, as someone he could have fun with whenever he had time.

maria callas opera onassis


Her relationship with Onassis rendered her careless with her career. She was engulfed by that glamorous life full of excesses, luxuries, and parties. Both directors and the audience noticed her technique was flawed, and not as disciplined as before, so they started to turn their backs on her. She blindly believed Onassis would be by her side during those tough times, that he wouldn’t dare to leave her. But she was wrong.

It was rumored that she had had a son from that man, only to watch him die two days after his birth. It was also rumored that she couldn’t pay attention to any of her tasks. One day she heard screams and ovations when she was preparing to go out on stage. Intrigued to know what the audience was applauding, she went out there and saw John Kennedy’s widow. Soon after, all the cameras and journalist eyes were set on her. Sadly, her humiliation was greater when she learned that woman was Onassis new wife.

maria callas opera aristotle onassis

If there’s a little bit of justice in this story, Onassis suffered with the exuberant expenses of his new wife. The expensive caprices of Jackie O didn’t seem to have limits. For example, it was said that day after day, Onassis’s private jet had to fly more than 300 km to get her favorite bread for breakfast. Meanwhile the frustrated millionaire sought comfort in Maria’s arms, who didn’t hesitate to take him back again.



maria callas opera laugh

On January 23, 1973, Alexander Onassis, Aristotle’s older son, died in a plane crash. Onassis broke down and slipped into depression, never able to recover from it, and died in 1975. After the man’s death, Callas isolated herself from the world at her home in Paris. She would spend her days watching western films, smoking all day, playing with the servants, and taking sleeping pills and painkillers. She was not able to make a sense of her life after the departure of the man who made her suffer so much.

maria callas opera window


On September 16, 1977, a decayed and weaker version of Callas woke up, had breakfast on her bed, and then blacked out. She died before the doctor could even make it to her home. Thus finished the story of Madama Butterfly who, deceived by Englishman Pinkerton, found her death, like a moth drawn to the flame.


If you want to keep reading tragic love stories, we have these for you:

The 6 Most Tragic Love Stories In The History Of The World

The Tragic Story Of Two Artists Who Tried To Copy Frida Kahlo’s Love Life


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Translated by Andrea Valle


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