Greek soprano known as La Divina to opera lovers the world over for her incredible vocal and stylistic range, Maria Callas was equally famous for her radical physical transformation. Deeply self-conscious about her "large build," Callas went on a strict diet in 1953, at the height of her career, losing a total of 68 pounds in nine months. Her metamorphosis was also part of a changing bodily aesthetic in the world of opera. More and more, thin was in.
Biographer Anne Edwards writes that Callas made the decision to lose weight after a conversation with director Luchino Visconti in which he told her she would make a "truer Traviata, who is after all dying of consumption" (2001: 115) if she lost weight. It was in the period following her weight loss that Callas met and fell in love with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. She had become something of a style icon. Although she relished her weight loss and never regained any of it, some biographers suggest that the shock it caused to her system impacted her voice negatively. Michael Scott writes that "a voice reflects a physique" (1991: 111). Scott argues that her voice was most full-bodied when she was at her largest, eventually growing "thin and acidulous" as she slimmed down.
Just as the contemporary trend in Hollywood has been for starlets to slim down, the opera community continues to pressure its sopranos to do the same. More recently, dramatic soprano Deborah Voigt underwent gastric bypass in June 2004. Voigt was dismissed from a Covent Garden production of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, because, Voigt claims, she had big hips, of which Covent Garden disapproved. This led her to follow in the path of Maria Callas in an attempt to slim enough to sing Strauss's Salome through bariatric surgery.
SLG/Shruthi Vissa See also Bariatric Surgery; Celebrities
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