There has always been a very strong link between Maria Callas and Verona
. The city of the Arena
, the temple of opera, adopted her and served as a springboard for her career, tributing her on many an occasion with welcomes worthy of a queen. Verona’s only five-star hotel, the Due Torri, was a second home for her
, and she stayed here many times during her stays in the city. The Hotel has also been a home from home for great names in culture, politics art and show business. In its rooms have stayed the likes of Vittorio De Sica, Anna Magnani, Rita Levi Montalcini, Margaret Thatcher, Placido Domingo, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCarthy and Maria Callas, and recent guests have included Sarah Jessica Parker, Richard Gere, Morgan Freeman, Adele
and many other VIPs, entrepreneurs and members of the international jet set.
A dazzling debut at the Verona Arena
Maria Callas was born to a Greek couple in New York in 1923. When she was 14, she attended the conservatoire in Athens, where she revealed all her precocious talent, making her debut at the Athens Opera in 1941. Back in New York she auditioned for the opera season at the Arena and was signed on by the then director. It was in 1947 that she arrived in Verona, a promising 24-year-old unknown. At the restaurant on her first evening in the city she met the man who would become her first husband, Veronese Giovanni Battista Meneghini.
She made her debut at the Arena
on August 2 1947
, playing the lead in Amilcare Ponchielli’s La Gioconda
, happy to perform a role that suited her under the great conductor Tullio Serafin
. In an interview
with Il Gazzettino
, the local daily newspaper, she declared that, “Your Arena, so grand and welcoming, had always appeared to me like a dream landscape, peopled with a warm audience. When I saw it for the first time a few days ago, I was taken over by a sincere emotion.”
She went on to achieve a certain visibility and began to sing in great theatres such as La Fenice and La Scala – where she was a huge success as a replacement for Renata Tebaldi in the role of Aida – playing the most important operas in her repertoire, from Norma by Bellini and Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti to La Traviata by Verdi and Tristan and Isolde by Wagner. She became a glamour icon, a great voice but also one of the standout celebrities of her time. Her marriage to Meneghini came to an end when she formed an attachment with Aristotele Onassis, the super-rich Greek shipowner who was her second husband until his fatal encounter with Jacqueline Kennedy. At the end of her career, in 1969, she worked with Pier Paolo Pasolini, who offered her the role of Medea in the film of the same name: the acting performance she produced for the occasion was riveting.
A Suite in honour of Maria Callas, a Veronese at heart
When she came to Verona, Maria Callas stayed at the Due Torri Hotel
on various occasions. Since then, this 5-star establishment has paid her homage by naming one of its most attractive suites after her. From the private balcony
of the Maria Callas Deluxe Suite
it is possible to enjoy a splendid view over the gothic church Santa Anastasia: it’s as if the city is offering guests a welcome with one of its most important monuments.
The Suite, which combines the atmosphere of a historic palazzo with high-tech comfort, communicates with a Deluxe room and is one of the most sought after in the hotel. It is characterised by original antique furniture, such as the writing desk and the divan, elegant wallpaper and a bathroom finished in Italian pink marble.
The Suite celebrates the union between Maria Callas and the city: the artiste fell in love with Verona right from the moment she set eyes on the place. Describing her first arrival in the city in the interview with Il Gazzettino cited above, she said: “I have one desire alone: to stay and sing in your theatres, in front of your audiences, who I already feel close to, under your sky, in your Arena”. One of the places in Verona most bound to her memory are the Chiesa dei Padri Filippini, the church where she married Giovanni Battista Meneghini, and the house at Via Leoncino 14, where she lived for a while and where there’s a commemorative plaque in her honour.