Two nights ago I escaped the first snows of Vienna to watch Madame Butterfly at the Volks Opera. This is not quite as grand as the State Opera, but opera is about the music, the singing and for me, the acting. That’s because I just cannot understand what they say. I might catch a few words here and there, mainly amore, and then I get lost following the story almost through mime. Except there is some really beautiful music to accompany the mime. For me the voices become instruments with beautiful sounds.
I was looking for something to write about. I was in the opera store at the State Opera the next day, and I saw the cover of a biography of Maria Callas. She died in 1977, two years after Onassis died. She withered after his death. She was born in Manhattan, and after her father ran out on her overbearing mother, she moved to Greece with her mother where she knocked on the doors of the arts and became an opera singer.
Her surname came from the shortened version of Kalos, which her father chose in America to simplify Kalogeropoulos.
My father was known as Stat in high school. But he always used his full surname, and it’s surprising how problematic it can be just in terms of pronunciation, never mind spelling, for other people.
My father was never an opera fan, but any Greek worshipped Maria Callas, and also her marriage to Onassis. The interesting thing is that there is a Kalogeropoulos wine estate in Mantinea, near our village. My father loved music, and was a piano player. His favourite song was La Paloma. It was written by a Spaniard, but the motif, a dove, can be traced back to the just before the invasion of Greece by Darius, the Persian king, in 492 BC. The white dove had not yet been seen in Europe. The Persian ships were caught in a storm off Mount Athos and the doves were released as the ships fragmented and sank. The Greeks on shore, seeing this, started the legend that white doves herald a lost sailor’s love.
That story in itself deserves to be an opera.