On This Day October 28, 1971: Maria Callas Makes American Big Screen Debut in Ancient Greek Classic Medea


Opera dive and legend Maria Callas made her big screen debut in the film version of Medea directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

The Greek soprano was closely associated with Cherubini’s opera of the same name, which she revived in the 1950s and the Italian director thought she’d be a natural for the film version.

Based on the Ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides, the protagonist, Medea, avenges the betrayal of her husband by murdering their children.

In Pasolini’s film, Callas has the lead— a non-singing role with an Italian screenplay.

Although the film was released two years earlier in Europe, its lukewarm critical response delayed its American release. Medea was released in the U.S. on October 28, 1971.

A New York Times review the day after the film’s New York premier called Callas “a fascinating cinematic presence.”

Maria Callas never appeared in film again after her Medea debut.


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