A new statue of opera legend Maria Callas has been unveiled in Athens, Greece. The monument was designed by American artist Frank Stella and features a marble bust of the singer wearing a white dress with a red sash.
The maria callas is a monument that was recently mocked as the Gandhi in heels.
Another monument honoring a woman has been deemed a failure. It’s singer Maria Callas this time.
This is starting to become weird. Yes, unsatisfactory monuments appear from time to time, but they now appear in rapid succession. The detachable head honoring indigenous women in Mexico City, the sexually provocative bronze monument honoring female laborers in Italy, and the all-nude statue honoring a feminist hero in England come to mind.
The wrong lesson was taught.
The most recent failure was a life-size bronze meant to honor the lady named “the finest soprano of all time” by Magazine. What you get is a near-six-foot woman with her arms crossed over her chest, as if she were a stern schoolmarm in charge of a classroom.
The statue’s position, according to opera singer Michael Moussou, is incorrect: “Nothing could be less emblematic of Maria Callas,” he claimed, since it would “limit vocal production.”
The stance has also been a target for spoofs. It’s been dubbed “Gandhi in heels” by the Guardian. Other parodies compare it to an Oscar statuette awarded to film stars and directors. A parallel to C-3PO, the droid from Star Wars, has been made by Classic FM. (I disagree with the droid reference.) C-3PO had a certain appeal about him, even if it was unpolished, that is completely absent from the homage to Callas).
Location, location, location
Only the site of Greece’s memorial seems to be correct: at the foot of the Acropolis, directly across from the Roman Theatre, where Callas made her debut.
Unlike the monuments to women in Mexico and Italy, Liti, a sculpting instructor at the Athens School of Fine Arts for the last 21 years, produced the Callas tribute. The art also has a certain amount of street reputation. KAS, Greece’s archaeological inspector, approved the design.
Given the outcome, it would have been a better bet to have a visual arts group weigh in on Liti’s work; nevertheless, she seems to be very content with herself.
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“I was given the pleasure of studying a unique personality and the opportunity to speak about her via emotion,” she told Greece’s daily newspaper Kathimerini.
Queen of the stage
But here’s the thing: there’s a catch. The figure’s arms are crossed over her chest, and she stands stiffly as if holding back all emotion, giving her a frigid and unfeeling appearance – the polar antithesis of what Callas was renowned for.
Callas might even alter a vocal line for dramatic effect, as observed by Matthew Gurewitsch, a classical music journalist specialized in opera, in The Atlantic Monthly. Her talent to emote was well-known.
Lliana Skourli, who founded the Maria Callas Greek Society, which helped finance the monument, pushed back against the criticisms, calling them “absolutely unjust.”
Skourli didn’t defend the monument per such, but rather the work her organization put in to have it built – the “blood and tears” of people who wanted Callas remembered. “We anticipated a little commotion, a little fuss, but nothing like this,” she remarked of all the parodies.
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