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Dario Fo dedicates a play to Maria Callas

20 November 2014 / 20:11:06  GRReporter
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Dario Fo met Maria Callas as a student, in his 20s. She was a bit older than him and charmed him as a woman, but mostly as a singer.

Time passed by and, at one point, the already 88-year old Italian playwright and Nobel Prize winner for Literature decided to tell the story of the life of the legendary singer, who has left a serious mark on the art of opera in the 20th century, "as no one has managed to, to date".

The book entitled "A Forgotten Callas", which he wrote with his late wife Franca Rame, has recently become a theatrical performance and its premiere will be on 28 November in "Arcimboldi" theatre in Milan. Dario Fo is one of the main actors in the show along with his associates Sarah Belonti, Roberta di Stefano and Jacopo Cherbo.

Originally, the premiere was due to take place in the summer of 2013 at the "Arena" of Verona, where Maria Callas made her Italian debut in Amilcar Ponchielli’s opera "La Gioconda", conducted by Tullio Serafin. The sudden death of Franca Rame who was to play the role of the legendary soprano has however resulted in the postponing of the show for more than a year.

The idea of the book was born during a conversation between Dario Fo and one of his assistants. She told him with enthusiasm about a lecture of writer Alessandro Baricco in Rome on the revolution made in the lyrical theatre by the opera diva. "I will tell you the true story of Callas. The one that no one dares to tell," said Fo to his assistant. This is how it all began.
 
The book-play presents the complete story of the life of the Greek opera singer who was born in New York in 1923. From the triumph to oblivion, from the glamour on stage to the life beyond, Fo and Rame wrote a text with three roles in which Callas tells the story of her life, without lacking in irony and sarcasm that sometimes become grotesque. The years in Athens and her first steps in singing, her legendary metamorphosis into a symbol of chic and good taste, the decline in the last years of her life and her troubled relationship with Aristotle Onassis are just some of the main themes in the work by Fo and Rame. The play also presents Callas’ meetings with people who had strongly influenced her career - her first singing teachers, her husband and manager Giovanni Battista Meneghini and Luchino Visconti, from whom she learned a lot about the performing arts. As for the music, studio recordings of Maria Callas that have recently been remade and released by Warner Classics will be heard during the play.

Dario Fo met Maria Callas during his studies at Milan's Academy of Brera, where he returned after the war. He and his colleagues earned a small salary, working at the scenery studios of famous opera house "La Scala". One day, while working on a structure that required special attention, as it was in a dangerous place for passersby, the attention of the future Nobel Prize winning playwright was drawn by an impressive young woman who was slowly passing over the stage. Worried, Fo shouted, "Stop! It is dangerous to pass over the stage now. Where are you going? Do not you see that metal pieces are falling from the roof? Do you want to get hurt?"

Callas calmly replied that she was going to the front of the stage where there would be a rehearsal. Suddenly, one of the theatre technicians appeared who told her, "Do not worry, Mrs. Callas, I will handle this." He held the singer's hand and, clearing the way for her, took her to where she wanted to go. Then, Dario Fo and his colleagues heard her singing. He states, "Then we immediately stopped working and sat on the stairs and on every other flat surface we could find to listen to her. We approached the front of the stage, making sure that she would not hear us. Somewhere nearby, we listened in bewilderment to her singing the famous aria "Casta Diva" from Bellini’s opera "Norma". In the end, we could not help it and started to uncontrollably applaud her. Thus, the stage director knew that we were there and told us, "What you are doing is not good, you music voyeurs. Such a soprano should not be secretly listened to."

Tags: TheatreDario FoMaria CallasPlayFranca Rame
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