Once, her enemies began to heckle as she got to the high notes of her second aria in Traviata. Callas tore off her shawl, stepped to the front of the stage, glared directly at her tormentors. With reckless ferocity, she lit into one of opera’s most perilous arias. If she had made a mistake, it would have been fatal. Instead, she sang with immaculate and unearthly beauty. Five times she was called back by the deliriously happy audience, five times she stood, stony and arrogant, before turning away. On the sixth call, she relented, bowed to everybody except the hecklers. Then she faced them, suddenly flung up her arms in a gesture of spitting contempt. Says she, with savage satisfaction: “As long as I hear them stirring and hissing like snakes out there, I know I’m on top. If I heard nothing from my enemies, I’d know I was slipping. I’d know they’re not afraid of me any more.
- “The Prima Donna”, Time, 1956
It’s Maria Callas’ 90th birthday! What a voice! What a face! What a temper! Girl could get it.