Callas love letters, dresses to be auctioned off

Thu Dec 6, 2007 1:03pm EST
 
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By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

MILAN (Reuters) - Musical scores, glamorous dresses and love letters belonging to Maria Callas to be auctioned next week will offer a glimpse of the private passions of the opera diva whose voice enchanted millions.

The material, released by the estate of Callas' late husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini, unlocks aspects of the life Callas shared with the man she left before having an explosive relationship with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

Penned before and after her marriage, 63 letters written to Meneghini are being billed as the most valuable items being put up for sale by auctioneer Sotheby's in Milan with a price tag of 50,000-70,000 euros ($72,780).

Written between 1947 and 1950, they unmask Callas' vulnerability and deep affection for the Italian industrialist 28 years her senior who was also her manager.

"To leave you would be too big a punishment for me," she wrote after meeting Meneghini in 1947 in Verona where her career blossomed with a performance of Ponchielli's "La Gioconda."

"Dear Love, the day of our encounter is coming! Do you want me? I am yours!," the Greek-American singer wrote in another letter.

The New-York born soprano, who performed at Milan's La Scala opera house, became one of the 20th century music world's best-known figures and is credited with the almost single-handed revival of Italian bel canto opera.

"I am writing today, the day of the crucial test and the day of the great 'bel canto' lesson I will give to everyone all over the world," she wrote from Buenos Aires in 1949, the day of the opening of 'Norma'.   Continued...

 
<p>LP records which belonged to opera singer Maria Callas are displayed at the Sotheby's house auction in downtown Milan December 6, 2007. An Yves Saint Laurent cape, glamorous dresses and love letters belonging to Maria Callas will go under the hammer next week in an auction offering a glimpse of the private passions of the opera diva whose voice enchanted millions. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo</p>