In the Eroica Hall of the Austrian Theater Museum in the Lobkowitz Palace, I was both a fortunate participant and observer of a wonderful talk given by Christa Ludwig, a former opera star about her time in the limelight together with Maria Callus.
Madame Ludwig was a charming lady who spoke with energy and passion about the art of opera and Maria Callus. Some select quotes:
When you can’t sing anymore, why would you bother? Why do people want to go to hear opera stars who have lost their voices. It happens to all of us, you know. It is an embarassment to go up on a stage and sing with half the voice you once had. I think this kind of thing is part of what killed Maria Callas in the end.
How can you expect someone to be a great dramatic artist on stage and then be perfectly normal? This is impossible. The same gift which allows the dramatic projection takes a toll on the soul. One cannot live these great emotions on stage as if real and then walk of stage and be like everybody else. I am speaking about great artists here.
What is wrong with people that they have to interest themselves in the private lives of performing artists? Yes, so Maria Callas has an affair with Onassis. Who’s business is that? Does it have anything to do with the music? Artists should be allowed to live in peace. The press hounded Callas as they later hounded Princess Diana of Wales. Is it any wonder their lives ended in tragedy. If you were hounded like that, your life very well might end in tragedy as well.
Christa Ludwidg’s talk was put together by the Friends of the Vienna State Opera. Music reproduced with the cooperation of EMI Records. All photographs taken by and copyright Alec Kinnear.