Maria Callas was someone I’ve thought about since I was a very young person when I first heard her voice on the radio growing up in Texas. I fell in love with the sound of her voice. She has fascinated me. And then her life! That kind of inner turmoil of falling in love with and being rejected by one of the richest, most powerful men in the world — it’s quite an extraordinary trajectory for anyone’s life. It just seemed very theatrical to me.
But when you sit down to write it, you don’t know if anyone else is going to enjoy it or be interested in it. I’ll never forget the first time we ever did it for anyone. Zoe and I and Lenny Foglia, the director, went to Big Fork, Montana, and read the play in a Town Hall sort of auditorium just to see how Normal People — non-opera, non-Callas fanatics, non-New York theatregoers — would react to the play. We took three planes and still drove for quite a while. It was a very long trip, but they loved it. When it was over, one of the questions was, “Is Maria Callas a real person?” Then the woman turned to her husband and said, “Ya see, I told you she was a real person.” Someone else asked Zoe if she was a professional actress. Zoe said, “Yes, I am.” The woman said, “You’re very good.” Zoe said, “Thank you.” So we thought if the play works for an audience that doesn’t know that, my God, this is the legendary Zoe Caldwell with 85 Tony Awards, then maybe the play has a chance elsewhere.
read the complete interview in Playbill
Photo: Tyne Daly, the ‘original’ Zoe Caldwell, Stephanie Beacham, Italy’s Rossella Falk, the real thing, Patti Lupone