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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis

The romance between Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis remains one of the legendary and tempestuous ones of modern times. Maria Callas, an American born Greek soprano, was considered one of the most renowned opera singers of the twentieth century. 

Aristotle Onassis, an émigré from Turkey, established himself over time as one of the world’s wealthiest men. When the two superstars met in Venice in 1957, both were at the height of their power, fame, and attraction. The fact that Callas was married at the time of their meeting, did nothing to dissuade Onassis from pursuing what he wanted. He extended several invitations to Maria and her husband to join him on his yacht, the Christina, and each time the invitation was refused.

Not used to being rebuffed, Onassis traveled to London to watch Callas perform at Covent Garden in the premiere of Medea. He hosted an elaborate post-performance reception for her, decorating the room with thousands of roses, and inviting such dignitaries and celebrities as Winston Churchill, Gary Cooper, The Duchess of Kent, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

 Callas remained unimpressed and made only a brief appearance. A month later, however, Maria and her husband accepted an invitation to an Onassis celebrity-packed cruise. This time, the lady was charmed, and thus begun the ups and downs of the world famous affair. 

The cruise lasted several weeks, at the end of which Callas left her husband. Onassis had won, again…but, perhaps, Maria had lost. At the beginning of the affair Onassis flew all around the world just to be by her side, even for minutes at a time. After awhile, however, the tables were turned. Callas had temporarily set her career aside to be with Onassis, and found herself following him around the world. 

Whether the passion had diminished, only the two lovers will ever know, but the Greek shipping tycoon had set his sites on a higher prize, Jacqueline Kennedy. In October of 1968, Callas learned, along with the rest of the world, that Jacqueline Kennedy had become Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Maria was forty five and never seemed to fully recover from the betrayal. She grew reclusive, and made a final tour of Europe, America, and Asia in 1973-1974, but her voice had begun to fail her. Predictably enough, the Kennedy-Onassis match did not thrive, but the Callas- Onassis romance never was fully rekindled. Aristotle Onassis died in 1975, and Maria Callas died just two years later.