Maria Callas was almost as well-known for her personal life - her jet-setting, her staggering weight loss, her tigress-like temperament, her affair with Aristotle Onassis (he threw her over for Jacqueline Kennedy) - as she was for her singing. Of Greek parentage, the New York - born, internationally famous Callas was the most influential soprano of the 20th century, reviving a school of singing - bel canto - that had been shunted aside, if not forgotten, for 75 years. Unlike most of her generation of sopranos, she was a superb actress both vocally and physically: her voice encompassed many colors and she embodied each character she portrayed. After seeing or hearing her in a role, it was said, it was difficult to imagine another singer attempting it, so fierce was her individual stamp. Her status went beyond cult; her triumphs and failures appeared on the front page of newspapers all over the world. This profusely illustrated book covers Callas' life and career without dwelling on unimportant details; the facts are all here, but it is primarily a musical biography.
The final third of the book is devoted to an analysis of the tracks on the two CDs that accompany the text - in short, they describe what made Callas unique, what made Callas Callas. Her voice was controversial; there were those who had negative visceral reactions to it, finding it ugly and weird. Millions of others worshiped it - and her. Listening to her now, more than 30 years after her early death at 54, there is no real argument: listen for yourselves to "La Divina" ('the divine one'), as the Italians dubbed her, and be amazed.