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ROME 2017

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Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words: A delicate diva

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- The 12th Rome Film Fest welcomes the world premiere of the story of a legendary singer, as told in her own words in Tom Volf's documentary

Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words: A delicate diva

You can be an amazing singer, the most eminent in the world, "divine," but if you don't have a man by your side, you'll always feel small. These are the words that stay with you after watching Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words, the documentary by young director and photographer Tom Volf, devoted to the lyrical opera icon Maria Callas, who died forty years ago. The 12th Rome Film Fest hosted the film’s world premiere. "It's important for a woman to have a man by her side and to make him happy," says legendary Greek-American opera singer unflinchingly in one of the vintage interviews collected by Volf, who travelled the world for four years, on the hunt for unpublished material, private films in Super 8, old photographs and letters written in her own hand (read aloud by Fanny Ardant) to friends, to her singing teacher Elvira de Hidalgo and to her love Aristotle Onassis, a great and wretched romance that marked her life and career.

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"It was some effort to collect material that only contained the words of Callas. I wanted to offer the audience an intimate insight into her character," explained Tom Volf, author of various short films on opera, while talking about his film in Rome. "We studied 400 letters from friends, as well as her butler and maid, who were almost like family to Maria. The intention was to do an honest job, leaving all gossip aside." Maria, the woman in question, is laid bare, we hear her talk about art, family and betrayal (she very humanly reproaches Onassis as a "swine" after discovering his relationship with Jackie Kennedy, promising to "make them pay"), but a lot of space is also given to Callas as an extraordinary singer: we see her ascending and descending from planes, surrounded by cameras and microphones, known as a rock star even by the youngest generations. The film lets us in behind the scenes of some of the greatest pieces she performed, and we listen to songs that she has immortalised, in particular Casta Diva, from Norma by Vincenzo Bellini.

The fragility of the great artist and intimate details of her fears and depression are not lacking, but Volf's documentary is above all an immense celebration of the legend, a great gift to music lovers all over the world, who will enjoy the videos taken from operas and concerts shown here for the first time in colour, in a technically successful attempt by the director to bring all of the collected material together. A portrait that some (especially those who already know a bit about the soprano’s story) may find to be a little univocal and not entirely revealing, but that offers the viewer almost two hours in the company of a talented, fascinating, passionate and tragic woman, unique thanks to her singing talents, as well as for her many tormented love affairs.

Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words is a French production by Petit Dragon, Elephant Doc and the director's company, Volf Productions. The film is due to be distributed by Lucky Red in Italy in 2018 and is scheduled for release on 18 December 2018 in France.

(Translated from Italian)

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