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Full disclosure. I appreciate opera as an art form, but I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan. In a way, that made me the perfect audience for MARIA BY CALLAS, a documentary worthy of the life and legend of opera star whose connection to her audience was like that of no other diva, or divo for that matter. It made me look forward all the more to talking to the doc’s director Tom Volf, a man who wasn’t an opera fan until early adulthood, but who has more than made up for lost time with the painstaking research and lavish devotion he has bestowed on his film, which allows us to hear Callas tell her story in her own words. Volf gained access to private letter from Callas to those closest to her, as well as earning the trust of the two people who were the mainstays of Callas’ life, her butler. Ferruccio and Bruna, her maid.
We discussed those things, of course, in a conversation that also rebutted the criticisms of Callas’ voice and her reputation as being difficult. Volf may be a soft-spoken man, but is passion for the art that Callas evinced in her work and in her life is evident, as well as the effect spending five years on such intimate terms with her while making his film, and the suitably sumptuous companion book of never before seen photos along with the text of those letters, has influenced his philosophy of life
Volf credits the force of destiny in leading him to make his definitive documentary about the iconic opera star whose private life was as dramatic as anything she performed on stage. With unprecedented access to Callas’ private letters and photos, Volf uses them as well as footage long thought to be lost to let Callas tell her story in her own words. The result is an intimate look at the woman behind the myth, and the truth about who, and why, she was.