The Maria Callas Museum draws the Curious into the World of Opera
It’s taken 25 years of preparation to make it a reality, but the wait has been well worth it. Athens celebrates the life and times of the legendary soprano Maria Callas with not one, but two cultural centres dedicated to the enigmatic icon. The newly inaugurated Maria Callas Museum in Athens on Mitropoleos Street with over 1,300 items associated with Callas, including rare recordings, personal belongings, photographs, dresses, and jewellery offers a rare glimpse into the life of the diva. Her home on Patission Avenue, that she shared with her mother and sister briefly, is set to be transformed into the Academy of Lyric Art.
Strains of Maria Callas’ distinctive voice greets visitors on entering the museum. Housed in a three-storey neoclassical building that was a thriving hotel in the 1920s, the museum is a destination for opera fans but also for anyone curious about this mysterious legend. Lending it the glamour and gravitas of an evening at the opera, a red carpet covers the museum’s marble staircase.
The museum sheds light on Callas’ remarkable yet tragic life, while highlighting her indelible contribution to the world of music. Widely recognized as the foremost Opera icon of the 20th century, renowned for her unmatched interpretations and techniques, the Maria Callas Museum celebrates the life and times of the iconic soprano. An esteemed international figure who united Greeks and members of the Greek diaspora alike, as well as those with a passion for or an interest in discovering Greece, Callas, with her exceptional musical education and interpretive prowess, revolutionized opera singing so much that we now distinguish between a time before and after her. Many of her interpretations are considered unrepeatable, making it impossible to deny the overwhelming allure of her charisma.
The tour begins on the second floor, where visitors enter a forest scene while Maria Callas – a silhouette on the back wall – sings an aria from Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma. Another room recreates the nighttime view from the diva’s balcony in Paris, with its billowing curtains. Lounge back on bergère chairs and chaises longues and get transported by Callas’ captivating renditions of three epic arias: Norma, Tosca, La Traviata. The third floor serves as a temporary exhibition space with stunning views of the Acropolis. There’s also a fourth room where visitors can see her teaching process at the Juilliard School masterclasses in New York in the early 1970s.
On the first floor is the core of the collection. Among the centerpieces of the collection are the diva’s personal photo album, a mirror placed in her dressing room and her prescription glasses, which she’d almost never worn. Wigs, notebooks, dresses, matchboxes donated by airlines and hotels from her last world tour in 1973-1974, as well as the menu of the famous evening in Venice in 1957, when Maria Callas met Aristotle Onassis.
Dozens of Greek institutions and private collectors, including the Piliarinos family, and artists Alekos Fassianos, Dimitris Mytaras and Panagiotis Tetsis, contributed to the new museum.
Soak in the magic of Callas’ vast repertoire of music through speakers, headsets, and a series of digital displays, positioned throughout the Museum. Check out the museum’s shop on the ground floor for some opera memorabilia (including Warner Classics’ complete set of the diva’s works with 131 CDS and a beautifully illustrated book). Pause for a coffee break at the La Divina café/restaurant that opens on to the pedestrian Petraki street.
01, 02. Maria Callas’ clothing and accessories, from the collection of Konstantinos and Victoria Pilarinos
03. Scarf “Fleurs de l’ Opéra” by Hermès – Paris, created by Julie Abadi, donated by Maria Callas Greek Society
04, 05, 06. View of the first floor Maria Callas Museum
07. Leather-bound rare edition, Medea (Cherubini), donated from the collection of Constantine and Victoria Pilarinos
08. Scores studied by Maria Callas, donated by Maria Callas Greek Society and her myopia glasses from the collection of Nikos Charalampopoulos
09. Costume from the performance of Norma, Epidaurus, 1960, from the collection of the Ministry of Culture
Address: Mitropoleos 44, 105 63, Αthens
Tel: 210 44 04 204
Opening Hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00-18.00, Friday until 21.00