On 13 May a group of letters written by Maria Callas to her teacher Elvira de Hidalgo will go under the hammer. Callas auditioned for de Hidalgo – herself a famous coloratura soprano – in Greece in 1939. It was de Hidalgo who understood the potential of this voice and moved Callas toward the repertoire that would become central to her career, as they studied together Il Trovatore and Norma.
Seven letters, unseen until now, running to thirty-one pages, will be sold in Milano by Bolaffi. In a letter, written on 9 November 1948, a plump twenty-five year-old Callas recounts the exciting news of her début in Norma in Florence in a few weeks time. It was to become her most performed role.
“Dearest, I pray that it will go well, that I’ll be in good health, because after those performances, if they go as well as we hope and dream, I’ll be the queen of opera in Italy, indeed everywhere, for the simple reason that I have reached perfection in singing, and there will not be another Norma in the whole world!”
Her début on 30 Novembre, with Tullio Serafin on the podium, was a triumph.
The first letter in the lot is from January 1946, the year before she met her future husband, Giovanni Battista Meneghini; the last, in April 1969 on headed paper bearing her Paris address, the year after she’s lost Aristotle Onassis to Jacqueline Kennedy, her career, by now, already over.
Elvira de Hidalgo, more than thirty years older than Maria Callas, died three years after her pupil, in 1980.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.