Maria Callas materials come to Stanford

November 13, 2018
Benjamin E. Bates
Maria Callas, from the television talk show Small World (1958), hosted by Edward R. Murrow.

The Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound is pleased to announce completion of the portion from the Robert Baxter Collection pertaining to the American-born Greek soprano, Maria Callas (1923-1977). During her lifetime, Callas was a fervent interpreter of the bel canto technique in the works of Donizetti, Rossini, and Bellini at La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, and other notable venues.  Her dramatic interpretations of Verdi and Puccini are often regarded as some of the finest interpretations of all time. Although she remained a diligent performer and was revered by critics, her personal life was heavily scrutinized by the press based on a perceived temperamental character, her supposed rivalry with soprano Renata Tebaldi, and the highly-publicized love affair with Greek tycoon, Aristotle Onassis.

Despite all the challenges of her private life, Callas remains an indelible figure in the history of opera performance and a quintessential opera performer of the 20th century. The materials, once the property of Stanford graduate and performing arts critic for the Courier-Post, Robert Baxter, serve as a comprehensive source for those seeking an in-depth survey of the Callas creative output. Included are sound and video recordings, books, periodicals, newspaper clippings, photographs, programs, auction catalogs, exhibition catalogs, correspondence, notes, and research materials. 

During the processing of the collection, a 1969 letter written by opera impressario Lawrence Kelly to Maria Callas was discovered. Kelly, a founder of the Dallas Civic Opera, was instrumental in bringing Callas to that city for a command performance of Cherubini's Medea in 1958. In the letter, Kelly goes to great lengths to clarify any misunderstandings the two may have had during the subsequent years in the hopes that the opera star will soon return for another production in Dallas.  

Letter from Lawrence Kelly to Maria Callas (1969)

Special acknowledgment is given to our Project Archivist, Gurudarshan Khalsa, for his processing, arranging, and describing the collection. In addition, we also thank Kim Kawczinski, graduate student in Music, Science, and Technology, for her thorough examination of the correspondence files and for providing the image of the Kelly-Callas letter.

For further details and access, please consult our finding aid at the Online Archive of California.

Other Stanford holdings pertaining to Maria Callas can be found in Searchworks.