Maria Callas(December 2, 1923 – September 16, 1977) was an American-born Greek dramatic coloratura soprano and perhaps the best-known opera singer of the post-World War II period. She combined an impressive bel canto technique with great dramatic gifts. An extremely versatile singer, her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria, to the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini, and Rossini, to Verdi, Puccini, and in her early career, the music dramas of Wagner. Her remarkable musical and dramatic talents led to her being hailed La Divina.
Born in New York and raised by an overbearing mother, she received her musical education in Greece and established her career in Italy. Forced to deal with the exigencies of wartime poverty and with myopia that left her nearly blind on stage, she endured struggles and scandal over the course of her career. Renowned for her vocal range and versatility, she turned herself from a heavy woman into a glamorous one after a mid-career weight loss, which might have contributed to her vocal decline and the premature end of her career. The press exulted in publicizing Callas’s alleged diva behavior, her supposed rivalry with Renata Tebaldi, and her love affair with Aristotle Onassis. Her dramatic life and personal tragedy have often overshadowed Callas the artist in the popular press. Her artistic achievements, however, were such that Leonard Bernstein called her “The Bible of opera”, and her influence so enduring that, in 2006, Opera News wrote of her, “Nearly thirty years after her death, she’s still the definition of the diva as artist—and still one of classical music’s best-selling vocalists.”