Christopher Walker reviews The 7 Deaths of Maria Callas playing at the Coliseum

Maria Callas was possibly the greatest voice opera has ever known.

I once attended a lecture on her where after playing a short clip the Professor asked the audience if we would like to watch more.

It happened again and again, until we ended up watching the whole of her Tosca Act II.

Her performance was simply mesmerizing.

Marina Abramović (Maria Callas)

This is the background, to Marina Abramovic’s extraordinary tribute to Callas, playing at the Coliseum.

As the Diva lies on her death bed in Paris, she ponders her own mortality and how heroines approached death in seven of her greatest roles.

This is the vehicle for seven contemporary divas to perform seven great areas, or rather six and one makeweight.

It is a great concept. The execution is mixed.

7 Deaths Of Maria Callas 

The New York artist Marina Abramovic, creator and Callas herself silently lying in bed, is highly controversial.

One of her proposed works, sadly turned down, was to invite the audience to undress and then let her wash and iron their clothes before returning them.

And Conspiracy theorists have long linked her to satanism, spurred on by her love of blood and bones, as in this show, as well as revelations in the Snowden Wikileaks.

She hit back saying she’d never met Satan and isn’t a fan. Some were not convinced.

7 Deaths Of Maria Callas 

Marina is also clearly completely self-obsessed.

She is never off-stage, and whilst the poor opera singers perform their pieces, poorly lit and dressed anonymously as Marina’s housemaids, they are dwarfed by an enormous backscreen playing mini-movies.

No problem guessing who the star is, often in huge close-up.

It felt like being trapped in the basement of Norma Desmond’s mansion in Sunset Boulevard, made to watch endless reruns of her silent masterpieces.

7 Deaths Of Maria Callas 

The videos themselves are well done and thought-provoking. Indeed visual stunning.

Marina falling off a skyscraper, Marina being choked by a boa constrictor, Marina in a hazmat suit after a nuclear disaster, and so on.

William Defoe is her emaciated consort.

But they are executed at painfully slow speed, and, well, Callas deserves better




Picture: Marina Abramović (Maria Callas): Pictures: ©Tristram Kenton 

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