Queer Voices pp 95-126 | Cite as

Maria Callas: Great Interpreter; Dysfunctional Vocalist

  • Freya Jarman-Ivens
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan’s Critical Studies in Gender, Sexuality, and Culture book series (CSGSC)


The first time I became really aware of Maria Callas’s voice, although I had certainly heard it previously without taking much notice (I had, after all, seen Philadelphia), I was taking my toddler son to a children’s birthday party. For some reason we arrived very early, and the father of the birthday child (who was out with her mother) let us in with some rudeness about our timing. We passed the time with small talk, and he asked me about my PhD, as I was in the middle of writing my thesis. We came, then, to talking about my interest in the voice, and he challenged me to identify the singer on a CD he had switched on. I found the voice thick at times, shrill at others, and was perturbed by some pitching issues and the variability of the voice’s timbre. I confessed that I did not recognize it, and my resentful host became triumphant when he revealed that the singer was Maria Callas; “Call yourself a voice specialist?”, he gloated. Clearly, I was supposed to feel embarrassed about not being able to identify Callas from her voice alone, a symbol of the importance of her place in operatic history. What has confused me ever since that experience is why this voice, with all of its inconsistencies and technical flaws, has been able to occupy such a significant position in that history.


Internal Technology Original Emphasis Operatic History Vocal Production External Technology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Freya Jarman-Ivens 2011

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  • Freya Jarman-Ivens

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