Today marks the anniversary of when late opera legend Maria Callas gave her last performance at the historic Carnegie Hall in New York City.
The following day, the New York Times published an article with the headline “Carnegie Hall Is Swept by an Emotional Torrent.”
The performance came only three years before Callas’ untimely death in Paris on September 16, 1977.
Since her passing, Callas’ personal life and career have been subjects in numerous biographies and documentaries. Her music also remains relevant, and in 2014 Warner Classics released a groundbreaking collection of her entire musical works.
The full article about her last performance at Carnegie Hall follows below.
“Carnegie Hall Is Swept by an Emotional Torrent.”
By Steven R. Weisman of The New York Times. Published March 6, 1974.
For hours before Maria Callas’s electrifying return to the concert stage here last night, telephones at Carnegie Hall had been ringing without letup.
Scores of callers—left out in the cold two weeks before when the soprano abruptly canceled her appearance because of a sore throat—wanted to know simply if they should bother to show up once again.
Even as the crowd gathered in front of the hall before the concert began, waves of gossip and rumors swept through the busy conversations.
“I heard she never had a cold last time,” said one woman to her companion. “She stood up the President of the Italians, too.”
“Well, I heard she’d had a fight with Di Stefano,” her friend said of Giuseppe Di Stefano, the tenor who has been singing with Miss Callas in her concert tour that began last fall in London. “I heard she didn’t like the way he sings better than she does.”
But as Miss Callas stepped on the stage the carping tone of gossip disappeared in a torrent of emotion. Cheer after cheer greeted each new aria, and Miss Callas was hardly permitted to leave the stage at the conclusion.
What many of those in the audience did not realize was how close the concert had come once again to being canceled, this time because of the death of Sol Horok, the impresario who sponsored the evening, and because of the emotional toll his death was taking on Miss Callas, an old friend.
Mr. Hurok had died in the afternoon, and, at first, the news was kept from Miss Callas. As she appeared before the audience she apologized for her “emotion and fatigue.”
Sitting in Carnegie Hall was one of the most celebri ty‐filled audiences ever assembled there.
Before the evening was over, however, Miss Callas was talking freqently with the audience. At the end, she gave an impromptu and mostly inaudible address on the subject of stage managers, directors and composers, indicating that she would be willing to sing opera once again in New York if new productions could be created.
Afterwards, she agreed to sit a black wooden table in a cramped, stuffy room behind the stage, to greet hundreds of fans who stood in line simply to wish her well.
“I kissed her hand,” said Bernard Bennett an East Side dentist. “And I said to her, ‘Do come back.’”
Sitting in Carnegie Hall was one of the most celebrity‐filled audiences ever assembled there.
Among the opera stars were Bidu Sayao, Maria Jeritza, Montserrat Caballe, Licia Albanese, Louis Quilico and Kiri Te Kanawa.
“I love the excitement,” said Robert Merrill of the Metropolitan Opera. “You can see it in the people flocking here. Unfortunately we haven’t seen much of it in New York in recent years.”
Most of the audience brushed aside concern that Miss Callas’s voice was far from what it had once been.
“She’s great,” said Andy Warhol. “We used to play her records in our studio.”
“To me,” said Paulette Goddard, the actress, who was wearing a blue silk gown with a diamond belt, “she is one of the greatest actresses of all time. It’s an emotional experience.”
But not everyone was caught up in the emotion. “I’ve never seen a cult before,” said Mrs. Frederick Winship. “It’s mass hysteria, and it frightens me. Maybe I shouldn’t say it; she’s a magnificent looking woman and wonderfully expressive … but I also happen to love music.”