Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
Gail M. Burns: I am not an opera buff like you, but you cannot lead a culturally literate life and not have heard of Maria Callas (1923-1977). Nor can you be a theatre geek and not have heard of Terrence McNally’s 1996 Tony winner Master Class.
At first my concern was that it would be an uncomfortable play, in which Callas, presented here during the master classes in voice that she taught at Juiliard in 1970 and 1971, towards the end of her astonishing life and career, eviscerated her students while wallowing in her own past miseries. I was wrong on both counts. Callas is portrayed as a diva, but a human one, and the side trips into her personal and artistic experiences are illuminating.
Larry Murray: It’s not even the tip of an iceberg, it’s just one chip of her amazing life portrayed by a fabulous Annette Miller. I learned a lot, too. Somehow it escaped me that Maria Callas was born in America of Greek parents and died in Paris at age 53. Her heart just gave out. In that brief half century, she lived a life filled with controversy, became a legend, and is now almost a myth. Terrence McNally’s play barely touches on more than a few moments of her life, there is enough material there for a theatrical franchise. In fact McNally wrote The Lisbon Traviata about her performances there in 1958. So far that makes two days of her life that have been dramatized.
Watching the play, we see two hours of her life as interpreted by Annette Miller and the experience was spellbinding.