Master Class is a play by American playwright Terrence McNally, first performed in 1995. It depicts a fictionalized version of the famous master classes given by opera singer Maria Callas at the Juilliard School in New York in the 1970s. The play explores Callas' life, career, and artistry through her interactions with three students and her accompanist, as well as her memories and flashbacks.
The play was inspired by McNally's own experience of attending one of Callas' master classes in 1971. He was fascinated by her charisma, passion, and vulnerability, as well as her controversial reputation as a diva. He also wanted to pay tribute to her legacy as one of the greatest opera singers of all time.
Master Class won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Play, as well as other awards and nominations. It has been revived several times on Broadway and in other countries, with various actresses playing the role of Callas, such as Zoe Caldwell, Patti LuPone, Tyne Daly, and Audra McDonald. The play was also adapted into an opera by David Pountney and Jake Heggie in 2018.
A pdf version of the play can be downloaded from the Internet Archive[^1^] or purchased from Google Books[^2^] [^3^].The play also reveals some of the personal and professional challenges that Callas faced throughout her life. Born in New York in 1923 to Greek immigrant parents, she moved to Greece with her mother at age 13 and received her musical education there. She made her debut in Athens in 1941 and later established her career in Italy, where she met her mentor and lover, the conductor Tullio Serafin. She became famous for her dramatic interpretations of bel canto roles, as well as for her vocal range and agility.
However, Callas also had to deal with the difficulties of wartime poverty, near-sightedness that left her nearly blind onstage, a turbulent marriage to industrialist Giovanni Battista Meneghini, a scandalous affair with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, and a decline in her voice due to weight loss and overwork. She died in Paris in 1977 at age 53, leaving behind a legacy of recordings and performances that are still admired and studied by opera lovers today.In 1971, Callas was invited to give a series of master classes at the Juilliard School in New York, where she shared her knowledge and expertise with a group of young singers. The master classes were attended by hundreds of people, including students, critics, and fans, who witnessed Callas' charisma, passion, and humor, as well as her high standards and expectations. The master classes were also recorded and later released as albums , which offer a glimpse into Callas' teaching methods and musical insights.
In the master classes, Callas coached the singers on various operatic arias by composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Bellini, Verdi, Puccini, and Massenet. She emphasized the importance of understanding the text, the character, and the style of each piece, as well as the technical aspects of singing such as breath control, diction, phrasing, and expression. She also demonstrated some passages herself, despite her vocal decline, showing her remarkable musicality and artistry.
The master classes were not only a way for Callas to pass on her legacy to the next generation of singers, but also a way for her to reconnect with her love for opera and music. They were also a rare opportunity for the public to see a different side of Callas, beyond the image of the glamorous and tragic diva that the media had created. The master classes showed that Callas was not only a great singer, but also a great teacher and a great human being. aa16f39245