Translated by David Connolly
Twenty years dead, now angelic, just as her Art, without at all Earth, in the sea, in the water, my soul, every wave a step forward, and a tear of hers, twenty years more alive, beyond sounds at last undistracted, now the most formal of moments, those beyond Time, a moment, an hour, a day, a month, a time beyond Time, an eternity more powerful that Eternity. How might that sublime sound now be heard within time, that sound, that frantic sound, that one beyond all the world's tongues, the musical summary of her story, of the Story of the whole world, the most sentimental, suddenly the most detailed, music score? Which tongue was hers, which fiery one, that danced dances always through the texts, through the lives, the works? If she hadn't known Greek, how far would her crusade have gone in the peoples of the West in arts full of inhibitions, how far would the luminous melancholy of her night have roamed, awakening those timid people in houses far and wide, recalling the pure meanings of other, heroic castles, the priceless freedoms of another Culture, how far?
As far as here! As far as me! I think of her again now, like Lewis Carroll no, like Vizyinos, like a little girl, Akrivoula like Papadiamantis, on that ship long before Fellini, first to Corfu, then on to Italy. I see her then urged by her mother to sing without fail for every foreigner. Underway, e la nave va, the piano would go, she says, with her sister's fingers and a voice unexpectedly divine, heavenly, a figurehead of and to the Stars, begun by this ugly duckling, began, and the Ionian sea became another planet, another Universe, another wind. She didn't want, not even before in America did she want the miracle, this child humiliated by her spectacles, her self, that black, that sacred Greek couldn't endure the market sales of New York, she, still Achilles within, longed only to multiply the ideal persistence of Indalgo, to observe everyone and everything like a demi-god everywhere present, from morning to night, at every lesson there She was too, close and above. A Santuzza already wild bitter, a Fidelio already a traitor Maria, she was already for the smiling suicides of the Arena, already for the fragile vowels of China's enigmas. The other wind of Italy, of Corfu was first to know her future's past, at the same time that Mitropoulos and Paxinou didn't hear, couldn't hear this Sister Beatrice.
Who, other than her own self, intuitive, multicoloured, all colour, could have turned her, only a few years later, from Valkyrie into Elvira, from Alcestis to Gilda, from Madalena to Rosina, from Amina to Norma, from Vio-letta to Medea! Which wealthy old Italian, I mean, could ever replace Bellini's youthfulness within her? What life death ever surpassed the Life of Death, tell me, in the world of dreams, the only real one? Whoever awake here around this greatest Sleep-walker of the century could ever become a guide, a master, one more name, then, one further Roman vanity, only a little, very little, did her soul's almighty wings grow heavy, only till La Scala, till the musical Everest, necessary requisites, yet also retarding, exhausting and exhausted. Tullio Serafin, yes: and her other Elvira, the Spanish woman, they knew, understood, took note. For, said Nicola Zaccaria, Serafin had before him the vision of all composers, of all conductors, of all stage-directors, the complete musician, though till then himself too without Callas.
Maria, on the outside a tiger and on the inside even more a tiger, the awesome mainstay of La Scala like a tenor, after all, heroic, most heroic of all, together with Visconti's also heroic femininity in an again luminous temple, in a Greece brought to its knees by its age-old ever childlike emotion, the mystical Haghia Sophia would transform, the Devil himself in his most volcanic hours, in her most unrepeatable moments, I say Greece, Paxinou, Papadaki, and I mean, my friend, the clear, atavistic, spontaneous concept of tragedy within her, the precise melody of Tebaldi, what moment of that ever living Pompeii, the well-groomed Leonidas of Thermopylae continually upon her heart could ever vie, kill? The words, like the hitherto abandoned creatures in the orphanage, with Maria's invisible flute, with her Magic Flute's self-sacrifice, endless excursions into the souls of the whole world began then, self-reliant now the firefly words of an incredible joy, everywhere light, beside the most darkness, bringing Easter, white candles, ours, mine, official signs of the metaphysical music higher than the mind, from the East, from Troy, from Ilium, cast, never vanquished, on an interminable Odyssey.
Her Achilles, her Leonidas, Odysseus for Callas too gave birth at some moment to another life's undulating adventure, rages, outbursts, restraints, drunkenness the Italian's petty hates New Worlds that Maria now saw, Chicago, Dallas, New Yorks again, now different, always different, with just one cent more, she says, with one drachma difference, you agreed in stingy Manhattan to revive, to teach, just as at the Julliard, years and ages later that they might say in the centuries to come, whole nights in a queue for your sake, that they saw you with their very eyes, my Queen, talking, singing, warbling, living still, for all the world's music is meagre without you, now that we know so well that you existed, it would remain, it would go on.
You, rebetic all heart in the heartless theories of their mindless minds, God trickling all love, from your every phrase, your every gaze, your every movement, what business have you with the dark powers of Giringhelli and Bing, with the pettiness, the folly of their vain presence? You, high priestess of the cultured East, Medea, and of the once upon a time living, always barbarous West, Norma, why trap yourself by money's sentimental colour-blindness, by the impersonal persons of the bitter balconies? Onassis was another matter, Callas and silence and madness and anxiety, and East and West. He too was Greece in the middle, man and void, angel and Hell in turns, yours. He too a breeze from afar and from near upon you, Maria, to refresh you, to chill you, to conceal the sun of your voice, of your soul like a curtain, to calm like a caress, to upset like a curse.
Yet the Aegean, a squall, a lull, love, liar and truth, indifferent, for you fire, conflagration, spite, panic, surrender, betrayal, you suddenly not hearing, unable to hear, you the storm perplexity, you the downpour desert. Yet: not even art has any answer here, not even life itself, no one is ever to blame, even if You are on one side and the Great Nothingness on the other. Love, anarchy, disorder, godless Food of the Gods, this alone could vanquish you, make you weaker than all, the hard even harder by love, the frightened more afraid, the insignificant more insignificant, you became more transparent than You, more person even than woman, more cloud than rain, more lightning again than thunder, Maria!
Returning again to her music, Callas proclaimed a sensitive Unknown God, a New Tragedy above all melodramas, a method superhumanly human, the largest music score now an affair of the heart. She showed how step by step the bodies go with the souls towards the sky, how they are destined. Maria Callas was never cremated! The ashes of the other life forbade immortality, with her body she rendered useless the deep red signature, the flag with her nose's cross, teaching that water becomes wine only when your very life is its colour, only when its taste comes from the field of your sorrow.
Words cannot express it, nor pictures, let the words be incomparable to the music, let the word be sufficient for you to be loved, to exist, for here, without words Callas, on 2 December, not September, not twenty years later is to be entirely new-born, not tranquil, a banquet, an infant's cry like the happiest laughter from here to Eternity. Not dying on a whim, what I mean now is it's as if a child all my own, utterly dark as I am, her cry from behind a closed door like a father who first hears forever his offspring you are, Maria, my child, you, on the edge of the Earth, I the lighthouse at the edge of the world, flashing like the light, the lines, of a stereo, of a cardiograph, each time that your voice, the light, your holy voice, o mio babbino caro, runs to find me, my little girl, you my universal night all around, my immortal soul. O mio bambino!
(To my dear friend Sotiris Kakisis on this very special day, for me, for him).