as Callas settles into a volatile duet on the world stage with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Longer interviews with David Frost and others provide a ruminative through line.
This largely diaristic approach pits her serene self-image, complete with shape-shifting accents—a cool New Yorker on American TV, a French or Italian aristocrat or earthy Greek peasant when talking to European press—against the reality of the woman as a mercurial handful. Most crucially, there are complete performances of her key arias, sung in “the only language I really know: music”, with a special emphasis on famous highlights from Norma and Tosca. Her authenticity there shines through every heart-wrenching note.
Intriguingly, almost all the performances are drawn from wellrecorded concert recitals. Most of the full-costume operas glimpsed here are taken from amateur 8mm movies, with no sync sound. Volf yokes these to rough audio records of the same (or similar) performances, and it’s mind-boggling to consider the effort that went into piecing all these elements together. Some of the framing, especially of smaller, more degraded images, may seem gimmicky or extreme. But hey, what’s more artificial than opera?