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Colourised film of Maria Callas’ 1958 Paris concert in French cinemas

The legendary Greek opera singer would have been 100 on Sunday

Ms Callas was at the height of her international fame when she gave the 1958 concert at the Paris Opéra Pic: IanDagnall Computing / Alamy Stock Photo / Walter Cicchetti / dimakig / Shutterstock

A film celebrating the legendary voice of opera singer Maria Callas, featuring newly colourised and remastered footage, will be shown in cinemas throughout France on Sunday to mark the centenary of her birth.

The film, ‘Callas – Paris, 1958’, uses footage taken of her debut performance at the sumptuous Paris Opéra on December 19, 1958. It is the first time a concert of Ms Callas can be viewed in colour.

The event was attended by the glitterati of the day, including Charlie Chaplin, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Cocteau, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and the then-President of France René Coty.

Ms Callas famously appeared on stage wearing a million dollars’ worth of jewellery.

During the concert she reprised the beautiful aria 'Casta Diva' from one of her signature roles, Norma (from Bellini's opera of the same name), as well as signing the haunting  'Miserere' scene from Verdi's Il Trovatore and 'Una voce poco fa' from Il Barbiere di Siviglia. 

She brought the evening to a climax with Act II of Puccini’s Tosca.

Born in Manhattan on December 3, 1923 to Greek parents, her grace, talent and temperament destined her to a life in the spotlight. 

By 1958, she had reached the height of her fame, but perhaps not her notoriety. 

She would go on to have a widely publicised love affair with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who later married Jackie Kennedy.

‘Callas – Paris, 1958’, directed by Tom Volf, was made possible thanks to the rediscovery of the original concert footage.

“In 2021, in a basement in Athens, I made an incredible discovery – the original film reels of a historical performance; Maria Callas’ Paris debut,” Mr Volf told Classic FM.

“After years of restoration work, I am honoured to be presenting this film not only because it is the first time ever that audiences will see a full colour performance by Maria Callas, but also because it gives us all the chance to experience what it was like to be in that opera house in 1958 and spend the night with the greatest opera singer of all time.”

The film will be shown at selected cinemas throughout France on Sunday December 3. You can check here to see if it is on in your area. Tickets cost €18. 

Read also

Did you know that the Cancan started out as a feminist dance? 

French pianist who brought out an album aged 109 dies 

Frédéric Chopin: the short life of a musical genius 

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