Nadia Stancioff was Maria Callas
's friend during the diva's unhappy final years, starting as a publicist for Callas's film of Medea
. Interviewing people who had known her earlier, Stancioff sought to explore the woman from the inside--"Maria," not "Callas." Though the result offers no real information we haven't seen before, it is delivered in a personal voice that makes this memoir (first published in 1987) worth reading.
There's plenty about Callas's appearance and love life, but the tone is chatty rather than trashy. The events that Stancioff herself was there for were not especially significant (she was present, however, when Onassis paid his first visit to an agitated Callas after his marriage to Jackie Kennedy). More valuable are the stories she hears from colleagues, fans, and the singer's elusive sister. The one subtle, and indeed moving, touch is something the author doesn't do: she declines to resolve the contradictions people tell her. Maria's mother pushed her into singing; it was Maria's own desire. Maria's family was kept in luxury during World War II by her sister's boyfriend; Maria ate out of garbage cans. In the '40s, the Met offered her roles that she turned down; there was no offer. The stories aren't reconciled because Callas can't be: she exists only in the kaleidoscope of other people's impressions. Stancioff's own Maria is a difficult woman--capricious, superhumanly insecure--to whom she is utterly loyal.
The unanswered questions surrounding Callas's death have been discussed elsewhere, such as in Maria Callas: Sacred Monster. As speculated on by the chorus of voices here, the mystery is particularly unsettling. Neither Callas nor, perhaps, anyone who cared about her was in control of what she left behind. It's a sad end to the tale of a tortured woman whose aura is as strong as ever but who was, ultimately, no more knowable than any of us. --David Olivenbaum
From Publishers Weekly
A publicist who met Maria Callas in 1969, when the opera singer was filming Medea, here describes their friendship during the next eight years and disputes myths about Callas. She focuses on the troubled woman rather than on the glamorous diva. Based on interviews with, and largely in the words of, colleagues (like the basso Nicola Rossi-Lemeni), friends and Callas's sister Jackie (who always refers to the singer as Mary), Stancioff describes a vulnerable woman with weaknesses and uncertainties as well as strength and pride, with limitations and inconsistencies as well as courage and determinationa woman of intelligence but no intellect, addicted to TV and films rather than books, a short-tempered actress overconscious of her heavy legs, a wealthy superstar who cadged taxi rides but spent lavishly on clothes. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.