The Greek-American soprano Maria Callas (December 2, 1923 - September 16, 1977) was the most famous opera singer of the postwar period. She combined an impeccable bel canto technique with great dramatic gifts, making her the most famous singing actress of the era. An extremely versatile singer, her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria, such as Spontini's La Vestale to late Verdi and the verisimo operas of Puccini.
Born Maria Anna Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos to Greek parents in New York City, she moved to Athens at age 13. Her stage debut was in 1939 as Santuzza, in Cavalleria Rusticana. In 1947, Callas made her Italian debut at the Arena of Verona in La Gioconda. under the baton of Tullio Serafin. Together with Serafin, Callas subsequently recorded and performed many bel canto operas, contributing greatly to the bel canto revival of the 1950s.
Throughout the 1950s, Callas made numerous appearances at the world's great opera houses: La Scala, Paris, the Metropolitan Opera, Dallas Opera, Covent Garden, Palacio de las Bellas Artes, and the Colón. By 1954, however, strain on her voice started to become apparent; by 1958 it reached a point where she was no longer suitable for many roles. Her later stereo recordings evidence masterly musical interpretations with an increasingly unstable higher register that wobbled uncontrollably at times.
In November 1959, she left her husband Meneghini for Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, a love-affair that received much publicity. It ended nine years later, when Onassis left Callas for Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of assassinated US president John F. Kennedy. Heartbroken, Callas spent her last years living largely in isolation in Paris, where she died at age 53. Cremated, her ashes were buried in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. After being stolen and later recovered, they were scattered into the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Greece.