Known as "La Divina," Maria Callas was a Greek American soprano, and one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century.

Born: December 2, 1923 (New York)
Died: September 16, 1977 (Paris)

Many critics praised her dazzling technique, wide ranging voice and dramatic interpretations. Her repertoire ranged from classical opera to the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini and further, to the works of Verdi and Puccini; and, in her early career, to the music dramas of Wagner.

Born in New York City and raised by an overbearing mother, she received her musical education in Greece and established her career in Italy. Forced to deal with the exigencies of wartime poverty and with myopia that left her nearly blind onstage, she endured struggles and scandal over the course of her career.

The press exulted in publicizing Callas's temperamental behavior, her supposed rivalry with Renata Tebaldi and her love affair with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.

Although her dramatic life and personal tragedy have often overshadowed Callas the artist in the popular press, her artistic achievements were such that Leonard Bernstein  called her "the Bible of opera" and her influence so enduring that, in 2006, Opera News wrote of her: "Nearly thirty years after her death, she's still the definition of the  diva as artist and still one of classical music's best-selling vocalists."

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